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Loose Threads

Fifty Four


            Gormlaith eyed Iain uncertainly while he kept a pleasant smile plastered on his face. She was wearing the same outfit she’d had when she’d been rescued, only Iain knew that it wasn’t. Her original skirt had been pierced through by a goblin spear and all of her clothes had been soaked in hers and the pony’s blood and then Siobhan had unceremoniously cut them off of the Sidhe woman in preparation for healing her and her subsequent move into one of the healing units. The reason she had the same outfit to wear now was simple; Theodora had manufactured several replacements for their guest.

            Today her golden red hair was done in a thick braid that hung to the backs of her knees. Her eyes were the same color and shape as her daughter’s, but her face was rounder and softer. Her body was the same way, but then Iain didn’t think a castellan trained like one of the clan’s combat teams.

            Ygerna clutched Iain’s hand tightly. “Mother, this is Iain and he’s my husband and the father of the children I carry.”

            Gormlaith looked surprised. “You’re pregnant?”

            “Yes, mother, I am.”

            She looked at Iain again and back to her daughter. “He is not Sidhe. You told me that you would not have another child with a human.”

            “Iain isn’t a human, mother. He’s a dragon.”

            “His Majesty isn’t going to like a dragon being in his lands unannounced,” Gormlaith began and then just trailed off with a dismal expression on her face. She looked at Iain again. “Please forgive me, lord dragon, for it is hard for me to accept that everyone in my court that I saw only a few days ago has been dead for thousands of years. I still don’t understand why I could not return to my court and my home after you rescued me.”

            “My name,” Iain said gently, “is Iain and not lord dragon.” He gestured to the table. “Please sit and I’ll try to explain it.”

            She moved to the table and sat with a wan smile. “You mean in a way that I can understand. Ygerna has tried repeatedly to explain it but her words made no sense. I am not a wizard and I do not think like one.”

            “Not many do,” Iain said soothingly, “and it is no insult if you or they cannot. I sometimes wonder if the wizards are entirely sane and, yes, I do consider myself part of that group.” He drew his finger down the tabletop, using his magic to turn the line it traced black as he did. “I’d like to use this line to represent time.” He put an X on one end of the line and a circle on the other. “The X represents the past and the O represents the future. Do you understand so far?”

            “I do.”

            He made a mark in blue with his finger on the line next to the X. “This is where the fey were created by your goddess.” He made another blue mark a little farther down it. “This where you were attacked by the goblins.” Another mark joined the others about two thirds of the way to the O. “This is where Eoghan murdered all but one of the Sidhe.” Then he made a mark on the other end of the line near the O. “This is where I met Ygerna, and it was only a few years ago.” He made a last mark between his meeting of Ygerna and the O. “And this is now, with us having this discussion.” He glanced at her. “Do you understand so far?”

            Gormalith nodded. “Yes.”

            He ran his finger down the line from her disappearance to his meeting her. “Ygerna lived through every one of these years and she made decisions in them and did things in them that culminated in her sitting here next to us. And it was only just a little time ago that she learned that I can travel through time. Up until then she had only known that her mother disappeared and that a lot of blood was found and that it was blamed on the Black Rock tribe, which Queen Etain wiped out in response. Only when she discovered that I can walk through time did she wonder if we had rescued you from death and asked me and the clan to do exactly that. Do you still understand?”

            “I do, but,” she paused. “Why not let me return to court?”

            “There are two reasons,” Iain replied.

            Gormlaith looked as surprised as Ygerna. “Ygerna only said that it would disturb what had happened.”

            Iain smiled. “And that isn’t surprising. However, there is another reason that she would have eventually realized. First, she’s right. If you had been healed and returned to court,” he drew a yellow line at a right angle to the black one, starting from where she’d been attacked, “the timeline would have changed from what she already knew had happened. For you, nothing would have been different, but for the woman sitting next to you, the one who already lived this timeline,” he tapped the black line, “she would not live through this time,” he tapped the yellow one, “while the Ygerna here,” he tapped the meeting of the yellow and black lines, “would have with you for as long as she could. This means that all of the decisions that ended up with this Ygerna sitting next to you would not have happened. This means that she would not be here now because she had made different choices during the part of her life with you that this Ygerna didn’t experience. The second thing is that in the end it would have made no difference at all and. without our intervention in your life, I am completely certain that today you would still be dead.”

Both women looked surprised and he smiled. “The druid Eoghan destroyed the Sidhe except for Ygerna. He would not have spared you and so you would have died when he killed the others and you would be dead today and she would still be alone, except that she would not be here with me.” He leaned back in his chair. “I love Ygerna and so for her I was willing to go back to when you were attacked, save your life and bring you here so that both she and you would be together here and now. Before you ask, I don’t care at all for anyone else in your court and I am not repeating this to save them, even if they were willing to listen to me about their impending demise. And just so you know, I seriously doubt they would even condescend to hear me out, much less listen to me. In many ways, Mullo and Etain are just like Lefan was. He didn’t believe me when I told him that if he fought me he would die. The fact that I was correct in what I was telling him he learned too late. It’s a fault commonly found in kings and queens because many of them believe their own lie that they tell others that they are infallible. They’d have believed that they could have somehow survived Eoghan’s curse that killed everyone else rather than give up everything to come here and end up subordinate to me. They would have most likely been wrong and I wasn’t willing to take that chance with you.”

            “While I grieve that all of the people that I knew are now dead and dust, I understand what you are saying and I am grateful that you took the time from your day to speak with me,” Gormlaith said formally as she looked down at the table. “I am also glad that my daughter was able to persuade you to rescue me. Thank you, Your Majesty.”

            Iain glanced at Ygerna. She doesn’t know clan yet, she said through her twee. I explained you as our king, but I did stress that you didn’t like being called that.

            “Gormlaith.” She didn’t move. “Gormlaith, please look at me.” Her head came up. “I know that Ygerna told you that I don’t use that title. I am the Grey, which is something like a king, but I have no pretensions of infallibility. I make mistakes and I don’t put on airs that I should not. You are my mother in law as I am married to Ygerna. That does not make you clan unless you wish to join us, but it does mean that you can call me Iain and everyone else here by their first name if you wish to. If you must use a title for me, I am the Grey, which makes me simply Grey, Lord Grey or clan leader. Among the clans, being referred to as a king is something of an insult as no clan leader would stoop to being merely a king. The equivalents of kings were wiped out during the formation of the clans and the history of the clans does not paint them in a good light.”

            “I am unused to such a level of familiarity with nobility,” she hesitated, “clan leader. Please forgive me while I try to get used to your titles.”

            “It might help if you didn’t think of me as nobility at all and just use my name,” Iain said with a smile. “Ygerna seldom does and most of the people outside the clan have no idea what being clan means, much less about formal modes of address within the clan. I’d like to be friends with you since you’re my wife’s mother.”

            She hesitated. “I was told that she is not your only wife,” she hesitated again, “Iain.”

            “Ygerna is my only Sidhe wife and while she is not my only wife, she will be my only Sidhe wife. I’m just very blessed that there are women who are silly enough to say yes when I ask them to marry me.”

            Ygerna chuckled at her mother’s shocked look. “In truth, I pursued Iain for quite some time before he allowed me to capture him in any fashion. It was for the best, however, since I believe because it allowed us to forge a friendship that later deepened into stronger feelings.” She squeezed his hand again. “Iain has told you that he loves me. In truth, I love him as well, but you will discover that as my heart still believes me to be High Queen of the Sidhe and, indeed, all of the Fey, I also have other responsibilities and other lovers as does Iain.”

            “I still find that hard to believe,” Gormlaith said.

            “Did not Mullo have his paramours and did not Etain also have hers,” Ygerna’s voice was quiet as Gormlaith blushed. “Yes, mother, I know that each of them took you as their lover from time to time. It was their right and your honor to obey their summonses and I know that you did care for Etain and she cared for you. She wiped out the Black Rock goblins because of the fury she felt at your loss. Over the years that passed she spoke of you fondly on several occasions.”

            “What is to be my role here,” Gormlaith asked.

            “You have not joined the clan and unless you do, you won’t have an official role in the clan except as Ygerna’s mother, my mother in law and grandmother to our children. Ygerna told me that she plans to introduce you around and she and Theodora will help to get you settled into something more permanent than the quarters you have on our ship. They will also help you to begin learning what’s different here.” Iain smiled at her. “I hope you find this place to your liking and I also hope that we can be friends.”

            “If you have been given my daughter’s heart I hope that we can be friends too,” the hesitation was much shorter, “Iain.”

            Ygerna looked at him. “You have training in a little while so I’ll take mother and get her set up in her new room. Is there anything I might not have thought about?”

            Iain frowned. “I don’t think so. The goblins have been warned to leave her be and the unicorns won’t care unless she offers them treats. If she needs a guard, you can use one of yours or ask someone to keep an eye on her for you.”

            “Ida has agreed to guard my mother for now,” Ygerna replied. “I expect she’ll need a guard for at least the next several months so I may ask for volunteers from the harem.”

            “Oh, have you asked if she wants a twee? The goblins all have them and she might want one too so she can keep in touch with the rest of us.”

            “I hadn’t considered it,” Ygerna said honestly. “I will explain what it is later today, Iain. That will help her to settle in with us.”

            “While you’re explaining things, tell her about Theodora.”

            “She already knows about our almost omnipresent guardian,” Ygerna said. “I did have to explain her in magical terms, but that makes as much sense as trying to explain what an AI is.”

            “Sounds good.” Iain rose, smiling as Gormlaith almost jumped to her feet in response. “Welcome to your new home, Gormlaith. I hope you find it to your liking.”


            Iain watched some of his clanmates as he sipped at his iced tea after helping clean up from supper. Gormlaith sat with her daughter and the two were having an animated discussion about something. Neither looked unhappy, so he wasn’t really interested in finding out what they were talking about. The goblins had eaten a stupendous amount of food and then retreated to their quarters as they usually did. He’d asked Arianrhod about it and discovered that fey goblins, as a group, had a touch of agoraphobia. It wasn’t enough to keep them from functioning outside or in crowded situations, but they certainly preferred to be inside, in places that they knew well, and especially at night. Considering what kinds of fey had hunted during the night, primarily on cloudy nights like this one or during the new moon, Iain hadn’t been inclined to start weaning them of that particular issue any time soon. Besides, even if the fey night stalkers were only a dwindling memory in today’s world, some of the night hunting pokegirls could be almost nightmares in their own right. And then there was the fact that one or both of the goddesses named Danu might want those night hunting fey brought back as part of their agreement with him.

            After finishing his tea, Iain headed for the collection point for used tableware and dropped off his glass before seeking out Ninhursag. “I’m headed for my office to take care of some things and then I’m off to bed.”

            She looked up from the book on Texas and agriculture she’d been reading. “Who did you pick for tonight and where?”

            Both she and Allison had started asking this every night after the incident in the forest the unicorns had come from when he’d been refusing to sleep. It wasn’t the slightest bit subtle, in fact bordering on rudeness in Iain’s opinion, but it did get the job done. Besides nobody had asked his opinion and he hadn’t decided to share it yet. “Lynn, my bed and we’ve already spoken about it so she knows what time I expect to be in bed.”

            Ninhursag nodded as she smiled. “Then I wish you a good night’s sleep.” She glanced around. “I’d ask for a kiss but if I get one that lot will be lining up for them.”

            Iain kissed her. “If they line up then you’ll just have to decide if you want to kiss them all or not.”

            “I meant they’d be lining up for you, silly man,” she said with a chuckle.

            Iain just grinned and headed inside. Once at his desk he leaned back and yawned once before pulling out his computer and keying it to holographic display as he laid it on his desk. “Call Selene please. I need to make an appointment to meet with Shikarou.”

            A second later the form of Haven’s AI appeared. “Good evening, Clan Leader Grey,” she said formally. “How may I assist you?”

            “Is that really necessary,” Iain asked.

            She nodded. “It is His Majesty’s order still, but I only have to say it the once.”

            “Is that once per call or are you done forever?”

            She smiled. “That particular order was imprecise as to which. Would you prefer I interpret it as once and done?”

            “I would, unless it would get you in trouble.”

            “I am an inorganic intelligence, Iain. I can always point out that I was following the orders accurately.”

            “And I won’t point out that you have as much latitude in interpreting your orders as I do,” Iain said with a smile.

            “That isn’t true for me. I am not Theodora and my volition is not nearly as independent as you have allowed hers to be. His Majesty’s directions are rather specific in most cases.” She smiled again. “It just so happens that you pointed out a current loophole in my instructions regarding addressing you. I would not have looked for it on my own. Now, how may I assist you?”

            “I’d like to make an appointment for some time soon to meet with Shikarou. I can either meet with him there or here, but this is not a formal meeting. As far as the subject of the meeting, I’d like to brief him on some events that have transpired that he’s probably not aware of but I think he should be. I am not requesting an audience. Instead, I am requesting a meeting between him and a few of his people and me and a few of mine.”

            Selene frowned. “I have to transfer to you to His Majesty’s social secretary, sir, to set up that appointment.”

            “I thought you filled that function.”

            “I did, sir. Right now I do not.”

            Looking at her neutral expression, Iain started to ask how she felt about that and changed his mind. But she was right that she was Shikarou’s to command and they weren’t friends. “Thank you for the clarification. Is his social secretary available or should I call back tomorrow morning?”

            “She is available, sir. I will transfer you to her.”

            “Thank you for your assistance, Selene.”

            She smiled warmly. “You are very welcome, sir. I hope you have a nice evening. Please stand by for a moment.” The screen switched to the crossed katana and claymore of the Kingdom of Haven and classical music began softly playing.

            Iain stared at it for a second. “Theodora, is this new to you?”

            She appeared. “It is. I still think you should have used your twee to contact Shikarou directly.”

            “He has rules for contact and they are, or at least they were, for me to go through Selene. Since I’m not trying to piss him off, I’m following the rules he set up. Any guesses as to who the social secretary is?”

            “I have no information on that,” Theodora replied. “And it’s odd. I do monitor the unclassified news and other things coming out of Haven and there was no royal proclamation of a new social secretary for anyone in the administration. It’s probably one of his harem, though, who thinks she doesn’t have enough to do or is seeking a promotion inside the harem.”

            Theodora vanished as the music stopped while at the same time the display changed and Iain found himself looking at a smiling Kozakura. Behind her was a pretty silk painting hanging on a wall that looked like the interior of an office. “Good evening, Iain-san,” she said cheerfully. She bowed. “It is good to see you again. How may I help you?”

            Iain kept his surprise from showing. “Good evening, Kozakura. When did you become His Majesty’s social secretary?”

            “It’s a new posting from just a few weeks ago,” she said. “I wanted to help him out and this isn’t too time consuming, at least not yet. I presume you want an appointment with him?”

            “I’d like to see him, yes,” Iain said. “I don’t want an audience or anything like that, just something small and private. There have been some events he needs briefed on and I figured I should do it in person so he can ask questions that he couldn’t if I just sent him a message.”

            Her smile widened. “Do you mean like the fact that you’re now a dragon?”

            Iain hadn’t asked Kerrik to keep that a secret from his children and so he wasn’t surprised. “Yes, things like that but there’s a lot more I think he needs to know.”

            “I see.” She nodded as her face became serious. “When would you want to meet?”

            “The sooner the better would be best. That and the longer we put things off the greater the chance that both he and I’ll have something come up to conflict.”

            “That would make sense,” she said as she looked down at something he couldn’t see out of the view. “As the Grey you have to deal with the same kinds of emergencies my father does.” She looked up. “What about five days from now at 0900? If it’s an emergency I can replace someone else with your visit so you can see him sooner but that would probably entail a private or public court instead of a quieter meeting.”

            Iain smiled. “Five days is fine. If the meeting is at the palace I can arrive at 0830 to be taken by whoever is my guide to the building before nine.”

            “How many people will you be bringing?”

            “I planned to bring around five people with me,” Iain replied. “But that includes my guards, of course.”

            “That also makes perfect sense, Iain-san.” She touched something down where she’d been looking. “It’s scheduled, Iain-san.” She smiled again. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

            “Thank you very much, but no,” Iain replied. “You’ve been very helpful and I appreciate that.”

            “You are very welcome, Iain-san.” Kozakura bowed once more. “And I bid you farewell until I see you again. I hope that is soon.”

            Iain smiled at her. “Me too. Take care and be well.” He ended the call and his smile vanished. “What the fuck?”

            Theodora appeared again. “Iain, may I show you something odd?” Without waiting she put up a still from the call he’d just terminated. Numbers appeared in various places inside the image. “The light levels and filtering on Kozakura and the wall behind her are different. I believe the wall and the painting were digitally added to the call.”

            Iain shrugged. “While odd, it’s not unknown. Considering the time, she may have been in her private quarters and didn’t want to let me know.”

            “The light reflected from her face is sunlight, Iain. It’s 1100 hours in Nippon and Kozakura hitched a ride on one of my transports there two weeks ago. I think she’s still there.”

            Iain shrugged. “They’re an odd family, but even if she’s in Nippon it doesn’t matter. I’ve got my appointment, right?”

            Theodora nodded. “Selene just confirmed the day and time. Didn’t you break a table with her face the last time you saw her?”

            “I did and I didn’t believe she could have just put that behind her no matter what her job might be. She’s never been that way in my stories, but honestly I don’t know much about her and it’s been several years.” He shrugged. “As long as Selene confirmed the appointment I guess I could be wrong about her. Even if I’m not, she looked professional enough for me.”

            “There was the part where she was calling you Iain-san,” Theodora pointed out. “That is very familiar for her. I would advise you don’t let her get behind you when she’s calling you things like that.”

            “I don’t think I’ll ever willingly let her get behind me,” Iain replied with a grin. “And if she’s in Nippon I won’t see her in Haven so it shouldn’t be an issue, at least not for this meeting. I will remember your warning, though.”

            “Please do.” She smiled. “I’ll stop bothering you since Lynn should be in your room waiting.”

            “Hint received.” Iain got up, stretched and headed into his bedroom.


            Pandora appeared, looked around and sent a message to Dianthus with her twee. A second later the Elfqueen teleported in with Iain, followed by Vanessa, Lucifer and Ninhursag. Only then did Pandora turn to the woman waiting for them. “Good morning, Your Highness.”

            Kozakura bowed, her ears up and still. “Good morning, Pandora, Clan Leader and others.” She gestured at the Phoenix standing nearby. “This is Nejiko, my pokegirl.”

            Pandora didn’t look at Iain. I thought you said she was in Nippon.

            She was. Apparently, she decided to come back to Haven for some reason. Hopefully it doesn’t involve gutting me like a trophy deer.

            If she tries I will hurt her a lot, Dianthus interjected.

            You will not be alone in that, Lucifer said.

            Enough. Iain smiled at Kozakura and Nejiko. “Good morning, Kozakura. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nejiko.” The Phoenix ignored him to continue surveying the surroundings. “I didn’t expect you to be my guide.”

            “I wanted to see you again, Iain-san,” Kozakura replied with another smile. “The last time you saw me I was not in a good humor and I do not want that to be the impression you have of me. I am not usually angry like that.”

            “Well, this is much more pleasant,” Iain said.

            “Thank you. How is my mother?”

            “She’s doing well. How are you?”

            “As you undoubtedly know, I have been spending most of my time in Nippon and I have been quite busy there. It is nice to return home for a time.” Her ears flicked. “Please, come with me that you may meet with my father.” She gestured in the direction of Shikarou’s home. Once they were walking she glanced at him, her ears rotating to focus on him. “How is life as a farmer?”

            She sounded genuinely interested and that made Iain wary since he knew she thought farmers were peasants and her opinion of peasants was not a good one. “It’s been a lot more work than I ever expected, but Ninhursag and the Elves do most of the heavy labor. Primarily I train with the combat teams, hunt feral pokegirls and help Lucifer out with Prometheus shipments and such and then I’m always busy being a father.”

            She nodded. “Do you think you are a good father?”

            “He is,” Lucifer said. “The children adore him and he is very good with them.”

            “That’s right, according to the reports I’ve read you brought two pokekits with you,” Kozakura sounded interested. “Do any of the rest of you have children?”

            “I’m Vanessa and I have two little girls with him,” Vanessa replied.

            Kozakura’s ears flicked. “You are not a pokewoman, correct? They are not really Iain’s children then.”

            “I am not a pokewoman and Iain was there when they were conceived, so we feel they are his and our girls definitely know he’s their father.”

            “My rule,” Iain said quietly when Kozakura frowned and her ears canted in confusion, “is that any child born of my women is mine and I won’t treat them any differently than any of my other children,” he smiled, “except maybe for Canaan’s girls and that’s because they have really sharp teeth, enhanced strength and they bite.” He managed not to laugh at her startled expression. “But after a couple of spankings they’re learning that biting isn’t socially acceptable. It’s a lot like Elizabeth’s daughter Melanie was.”

            Kozakura’s ears flicked uncertainly. “I see. I don’t understand that outlook but I am willing to listen to new ways of doing things.”

            “It’s ok,” Iain said reassuringly. “It’s a clan philosophy and not all clans follow it to the extent we do either. Kami tend to have different ideas about children who aren’t directly born from them.”

            Kozakura looked relieved. “I wasn’t aware that you knew our ways too. That’s good. I don’t know if I could easily adapt to your customs. They are too foreign to us.”

            Iain started to point out that Kasumi, who was her mother, had adapted quickly and happily to the ways of the Grey clan and that Yuko hadn’t had any major problems with it either, but Kozakura didn’t know anything about Yuko and he decided that bringing her mother up might be a touchy subject. “Well, you’re a Wolf and nobody is asking you to change your ways.”

            Kozakura nodded once. “Good.” She frowned slightly and Iain saw a calculating look flit through her eyes. “I am not saying that I could not change if I had a good reason to do so, it is just that such a change would be difficult.” She flashed a smile. “But for a worthwhile reason I can accomplish anything.”

            “I’m sure you can,” Iain reassured her. He managed to not show his relief at the fact that they were almost to the palace. “Is Shikarou running on schedule or am I going to have to wait a little longer than originally planned?”

            Kozakura blinked. “I will have to see, but I hope that his audience period should be ending soon.” She led them into the main hall and gestured towards some seats. “Please wait here and I will return soon.” She bowed and then headed quickly out of the room, closely followed by her Phoenix.

            You did not write much about Kozakura, Lucifer said through her twee to Iain and copied everyone else as Iain sat down and the women arranged themselves around him. Is she trying to determine if you would be a suitable candidate to be her mate? I believe that she was trying to learn from us if you had sired any children from any of your women. What intelligence she has is obviously incomplete if the Havens are not aware of Michael’s parentage.

            If that is what Kozakura is doing, how is she going to take discovering that Kasumi is married to Iain, Pandora asked.

            Dianthus snorted softly. It may not do anything to change her mind. Pokegirl mothers and their kits have shared the same tamer as long as the tamer is not the sire of the pokekits. As we know, sometimes even if he was their sire that did not stop them from their father becoming their tamer. While not a pokegirl, Kozakura grew up around pokegirls and I understand her father is rather indiscriminate with his attentions.

            I wonder if she has convinced herself or somehow misinterpreted the facts to suggest that when Iain knocked her out he was already a dragon; Vanessa’s thought was musingly put forth. That would make him an eligible breeding partner and potential mate under the rules that she has set for herself.

            Ninhursag gave him a worried glance. It may be worse for you if she has the facts arranged correctly. If, as a human, Iain defeated her as easily as he did, then just imagine how much more powerful she will think that he must be now that he’s a supernatural creature like she is.

            Kasumi wants to be my only kami wife, and I’m not interested in courting more women outside the ones I already am involved in except for those that I have already obligated myself to at least meet, Iain’s thought was firm. Even if I could believe that Kozakura’s current polite behavior towards me would continue if we became a couple, I love Kasumi and in this what she wants is what is going to happen. I will try to let Kozakura down as gently as possible, but down she will go. Besides, I never thought she was hot and I’m sure she would not be nearly as polite to you or see you as equals.

            Here she comes, Pandora sent.

            Kozakura and Nejiko came through a different doorway than the one through which they’d left the room. She bowed to Iain. “I am sorry, Iain-san, but court is running a little behind the planned schedule. I believe my father should be able to meet with you in about half an hour. I hope that is acceptable.”

            Iain smiled at her. “That will be more than acceptable, Kozakura. I know how time can slip through someone’s fingers when they’re holding meetings. Waiting half an hour won’t be a problem. I do want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to escort us to the palace.”

            She gave him a warm smile in return. “It was my pleasure Iain-san. I hope to see you again soon.”

            Iain nodded. “Hopefully things will work out in such a way that it could be possible.”

            “I hope that too, but you are right and I should go. Take care, Iain-san.”

            “Take care, Kozakura.” He watched her leave with an amused smile. “Ladies, we are supposed to have at least half an hour, I have a deck of cards and we can watch each other’s backs while we play.”

            Ninhursag grabbed a coffee table that was trying to be inconspicuous along a wall and plopped it down in front of him as Dianthus started pulling chairs into position around it. “Deal the cards, mister.”


            Branwyn stopped just inside the doorway and smiled at the subdued mayhem surrounding the ad hoc card table. “I see you are as bad as we are about competing at games.”

            Pandora looked up. “Most of us here are pokegirls, after all. Does Shikarou manage to keep up with you in winning?”

            The Unicorn shook her head. “No, he’s not that competitive in cards.”

            Pandora turned her gaze on Iain as she tossed her cards down. “You have to be cheating. I just haven’t figured out how you’re doing it.”

            “If I were cheating,” Iain said as he dropped his cards on the tabletop along with everyone else’s and began sweeping them into a pile to return to the box, “wouldn’t I be ahead in wins instead of in third place?”

            “You have improved remarkably in a rather short period of time,” Ninhursag stated. “I can see where Pandora would be suspicious, but he’s right. If he had a foolproof method of winning, he’d be crushing us with it.”

            “He’s ahead of me,” the Archangel grumbled.

            “That’s why you think I’m cheating.” Iain finished putting the cards away. “Good morning, Branwyn. Are we up next?”

            She nodded. “Good morning, Iain and, while we’re sorry about the delay, there were some issues that caused the court to run long and then we had to have a quick meeting to discuss some of the ramifications.”

            “Problems with Tropic?”

            “No, they’ve been fairly friendly since we’ve been helping them with anti-feral patrols in the waters around some of Tropic’s islands. Indigo, however is becoming more belligerent about territorial waters around Florida and South Carolina.”

            Iain snickered as he stood. “Their navy is garbage and you’re not a signatory to any treaties with the leagues, much less any maritime ones. And they aren’t over fishing and you’re not fishing in their waters so what exactly is their problem with you sailing or flying over the ocean they claim?”

            “Actually, we think it’s your fault and that they’re baring their teeth at us because you scared the crap out of them when you killed Rush. We think that they’re taking it out on us because they see us as being allied with you somehow.”

            Iain rolled his eyes. “Send them video of the orbital bombardment Kerrik did of the Africa site and tell them to drop dead.”

            Branwyn grinned. “Now you sound like my husband, but we’re going to try a little bit of diplomacy first.”

            “Texas got a cease fire out of them with diplomacy, so miracles do sometimes happen, but remember I had to make the Louisiana Canal first to get their attention.”

            “Are you taking credit for that?”

            Iain shrugged. “I’m the one they blame for it. They know Evangelion did it, but they need to blame a face that can’t destroy their league in a matter of seconds for their press and public image. I was as good a choice as any and I was her lackey in what she did and while I’ve never seen inside that armor she wears she sounds cute.”

            Branwyn’s eyebrows crawled up her forehead. “You want to have sex with Evangelion?”

            “I’m a guy, Branwyn. I probably wouldn’t turn down an offer from you if you were single because you’re cute. You sound cute too.”

            She smiled warmly and motioned for him to join her. “Flatterer. Let’s go see Shikarou.”  She glanced at him as they walked towards the staircase. “How are Ygerna and Kasumi doing?”

            “They are doing reasonably well,” Iain replied. “And, more importantly to you, they’re content where they are and show no signs of wanting to return to Haven.”

            “I never said that,” she said defensively.

            “You’re the alpha and they were not pokegirls and not in your sphere of control. Secretly you’re happy they’re gone.” She shot him a look and he carefully didn’t smile as he continued without a pause. “Yes, I understand more about harem dynamics than any male should be allowed to and, no, I’m not going to mention anything about the situation to Shikarou unless the briefing I’m giving him requires it. I wouldn’t even bring up their names if I didn’t have to, but I will in this briefing. More importantly, it’s not my place to inform him how you might feel about anything.”

            She glanced at him again and back at Ninhursag. “I didn’t realize just how dangerous he is.”

            The Elfqueen chuckled. “You have no idea but since he said it’s not his business, he won’t bring it up. That you can trust absolutely.”

            “That’s good to hear,” Branwyn replied. She led them to a large glass double door. “Since this is just a casual meeting, as requested, and remembering what we did the last time you asked for just that, we’re meeting on the veranda with snacks and such.” She opened the door. “And the meeting will be just your group, Shikarou, me, Poppet and Bellona with Dorothea and Nanu for security. Faelan would have been here but he’s doing a goodwill visit to Tropic with his harem and Jamie and his girls went with him to help provide security.” She stepped outside and gestured them to follow her. “Shikarou, here’s Iain along with Ninhursag, Lucifer, Pandora, Dianthus and Vanessa.”

            Shikarou was sitting with Poppet and Bellona seated nearby while Dorothea and Nanu stood sentry close behind them. He got up and bowed to his guests. “Good morning, Iain. I’m sorry that court ran long but the Indigo ambassador was unusually long winded even for him.”

            Iain shrugged and bowed back. “Politicians love to hear their voices and they seem to talk the most when they have the least amount of substance to say.”

            Shikarou grinned and sat down as Branwyn settled down in a nearby chair. “That’s true. Sit and tell me how Kasumi is doing.”

            “The short form is that she’s doing well. The long version of that is part of the briefing that I wanted to meet with you for and I don’t want to get too much out of order or I’ll just confuse myself since I don’t know what parts of this you’re already aware of.” Iain settled down and waited until his women except for Pandora and Dianthus joined him.

Bellona started serving a fragrant tea to everyone along with some spicy cinnamon cookies as she spoke. “We don’t know much about what’s going on at your ranch, Iain, since we haven’t been to visit since Shikarou met with you and Kasumi.”

            “That’s why we’re reaching out to you,” Ninhursag said. “We have information about things that you don’t and we think you should know them since, while you’re not clan, we are associated with each other and we are more alike than different in many ways. That’s why we’re here and why Iain is here as the clan leader, I’m here as his maharani, Lucifer is here as the general of our armies and Vanessa represents the women who have had children within the clan.”

            Poppet leaned forward slightly. “Lucifer isn’t here to represent the Sisterhood?”

            “The Sisterhood is satellite clan,” Lucifer replied. “And after we deal with the current unpleasantness I will be bringing it into closer orbit with the clan proper. I am also here to represent our operations via the Prometheus Society since I am its leader as well as the leader of the Sisterhood.”

            Branwyn frowned. “Unpleasantness?”

            “That’s part of the briefing,” Lucifer replied. “Iain is going to do most of the talking while, if necessary, we’ll provide details during the question and answer session at the end.”

            “We have to wait to ask questions?” Shikarou looked more curious than upset.

            “I’ll answer easy questions during the briefing,” Iain took a sip of the tea and didn’t make a face at the raspberry ruining what tasted like an otherwise excellent tea. “But I don’t want to get too distracted and miss covering something that might later prove important.”

            “We should do that more,” Branwyn said with a glance at Nanu.

            Shikarou just shook his head. “Drop it,” he said calmly. “Iain, please begin.”

            Iain gratefully put his tea down. “I thought I’d open with our visitor in space since that’s probably the item that’ll take the least time to cover. While Kerrik and I are fairly sure that truewizardry is involved in the artificial planetary system that’s sailing around in the solar system, we haven’t seen any proof and, in fact, haven’t seen anything significant other than Ygerna claims to have recognized an engraving on the castle as belonging to the Fomorian race, a group of supernatural beings that her Sidhe fought and defeated some time before humans started digging copper out of the ground and smelting it into axe heads. Nobody knows anything about them, but I’m investigating some possible new leads on sources of information about the Formorians. Other than that, for the time being we have found a way to lead them away from Earth that appears to be successful, at least it has been so far.”

            Bellona smiled. “We’ve been monitoring them too from afar so as not to get anyone’s attention and we know about you using gold to lure them where you want.” Her smile faded. “I wish we had more space assets than we do, but we’re focused on the surface more than the stars.”

            “If you need something specific, I can sell or, probably better yet, lease what you might want to you,” Iain replied. “I have proven designs or can make something custom if you want something special. That way you can get rid of it when you don’t need it anymore and don’t have to keep it sitting around or make a new one every time you need a ship. If it’s minerals, or other equipment, Kerrik or I can get them for you. Just talk to Lucifer or Theodora.”

            Bellona chuckled. “You don’t want us in space?”

            Iain smiled slightly. “There’s a lot of room out there and I don’t really care. If you want me to help you build your own manufacturing infrastructure, I’ll do it. And if you don’t want us to do anything for you, that’s fine too. You’re not our enemies.”

            “But we haven’t tried very hard to be your friends either, have we,” Poppet asked.

            “That is true,” Iain said, “but we’re meeting now and if we’re not mortal enemies, anything is possible if we all want it badly enough.”

            Poppet smiled. “That’s a very polite way to remind us that we have to reciprocate if we want to be friends with you.”

            “I thought it was.” He looked around the room. “And since Fomorians are fey, that leads us naturally to the developments involving Ygerna.”

            Branwyn frowned. “Is she really pertinent to this? I’m not trying to slight her but she moved to Texas. What could she have done that could possibly affect us?”

            Ninhursag laughed. “You’re going to regret asking that question. What’s happening with her will probably impact the entire world and we wanted to tell you before you hear about it from others and so you could be forewarned.” She looked at Iain. “Tell her.”

            Iain took a deep breath before plunging ahead. “Are you aware that inherent in the spells used to travel through the dimensions is an adjustment that allows the caster to compensate for the time differentials between the origin dimension and the destination dimension?”

            “Now you sound like his father,” Nanu snorted with a nod towards Shikarou.

            Shikarou’s ears flicked as he looked up at her and he smiled before turning his attention back to Iain. “She’s right and, yes, I am aware of that. It’s only really useful if you’re going to a dimension you know a lot about.”

            Iain shook his head. “That adjustment can also be used to specify a particular time for the arrival.”

            Shikarou frowned. “That’s time travel.”

            “No, time travel is what you did to snip off the branch of time where Happosai killed Kasumi’s family. Time travel stays within one dimension or universe.”

            “What is the difference between a dimension and a universe,” Poppet asked.

            “A dimension can be very finite and a universe is a dimension which is either almost or is infinite.” Shikarou looked at Iain. “That is how you define it too, right?”

            “Yes. It’s the rectangle and square issue all over again. All universes are dimensions but not all dimensions are universes,” Iain continued. “And what we call a hyperdimensional space is just an artificial dimension, usually very small, that is forced to interact with another dimension in ways that naturally wouldn’t happen. Anyway, we mastered using that to the point that we could hit specific destination times.”

            “But that would require you to know the target location that well too,” Shikarou pointed out.

            “We cheat that one by only exiting and entering above the ecliptic of the solar system. Then all we have to do is to map the movement of the solar system through the universe. It’ll get a little more difficult when aiming for other locations within dimensions, but Dominique has become quite adept with her dimensional gate spell so I’m not overly worried about it.”

            “So what does this have to do with Ygerna,” Bellona asked.

            “To begin with, you should know that after a rather tumultuous courtship, Ygerna and I married,” Iain said.

            Shikarou looked stunned. “Congratulations,” he finally said. “I presume you should be congratulated since she’s not here.”

            “I didn’t think it would be politic to bring either Ygerna or Kasumi to this meeting,” Iain admitted. “And, yes, I love Ygerna, which is why we did what she asked and possibly changed the course of this world.”

            Poppet leaned forward. “Are we all going to die tomorrow?”

            “Not that I’m aware of,” Iain said.

            “Then you have time to explain that extraordinary statement to our satisfaction, do you not?”

            “I will endeavor to do so but I will be the one to decide when I am done explaining,” Iain replied.

            Branwyn laughed. “You have been spending a lot of time around Ygerna.”

            “Well, since you already know about it, I can tell you that a lot of what I’m going to explain about Ygerna probably happened at least in part because I’m no longer human,” Iain began.

            Shikarou’s ears flattened. “Wait, what?” He looked at Bellona. “What is he talking about?”

            “I have no idea.” The Dragonqueen turned to Iain. “We have no information about you being other than human. What are you now?”

            “We know that Kerrik told you that I’m a doragon or Western dragon now,” Iain said.

            “He hasn’t said anything about that,” Poppet stated. “We really don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            Lucifer looked at Ninhursag. “But Kozakura deliberately revealed that she knows he’s a dragon and Kerrik is the only person outside of our family who knows who could have told her. It is unlikely that she’s been in contact with Yuko without us knowing about it.” She looked at Shikarou. “Why would Kozakura not tell you this?”

            Branwyn frowned. “She is here.”

            Shikarou sat up. “What?”

            “I saw her during court. She peered in through one of the observation windows to court and looked around before withdrawing. I didn’t say anything because she doesn’t keep me appraised of her comings and goings.”

            “Well I certainly didn’t know my daughter was back in Haven,” Shikarou snapped as he leaned back again.

            Iain licked suddenly dry lips. “When I called to set up this meeting, Selene shunted me to Kozakura because she’s your social secretary. During the discussion about this appointment she said she knew I’d become a dragon. Today, she met us and escorted us to the palace.”

            “Kozakura is not my social secretary,” Shikarou said, “whatever that is. Selene sets up my appointments.”

            “She didn’t want her father to know she’s considering you as a mate,” Vanessa said suddenly. “She’s playing a very closely held game.”

            Shikarou sat up and stared at her. “Kozakura is what?” He looked up. “Selene.” She appeared in front of him. “What is going on?”

            “Your Majesty, four weeks ago Her Highness instructed me that the Grey was eventually going to want an appointment to see you and that I was to send his call to her and that she would attend to it. I was to tell him that I was rerouting the call to your social secretary, Your Majesty, and I was specifically ordered not to inform you and as this was not a threat to you or the kingdom I had to comply because she has authorization to give me those kinds of orders. She did arrange this meeting and told me that she would attend to escorting the Grey and his party to the palace, which she did.”

            Shikarou’s ears were flat and his eyes were hard. “Where is Kozakura now?”

            “She has returned to Nippon, Your Majesty, to the estate you purchased for her and has since left the property. I cannot follow her from there.”

            Shikarou growled softly. “I want to know where my daughter is.”

            Iain produced his phone. “May I help?”

            Shikarou looked evenly at him for a moment. “Please.”

            “Theodora, can you find Kozakura?”

            A hologram of her head appeared over the phone. “I’m looking for her now. She’s left her phone at her house but Nejiko has her phone and while it’s not accepting calls, it is pinging the satellite constellation.” She smiled. “She’s on Sadogashima. I’ve got her on visual now. She’s in the mountains over our farm.”

            Ninhursag looked at Iain. “Did you buy that farm here too?”

            “I did,” he said with a grin. “Nostalgia and all that.” He caught the look of incomprehension on Shikarou’s face. “I’ll explain when we get to the Kasumi portion of the briefing.”

Shikarou’s ears flicked as he nodded slowly. “While I did not know that you are a Western dragon before today, I do now. How did that happen?”

            “Sometime between the time when I first came to a world with pokegirls in it and the move to this world, my spirit got changed from that of a human to that of a dragon. Not too long ago, we figured this out and just recently I actually became a dragon and was stuck in my dragon form. I went to Kerrik for assistance and we got that sorted out. According to Ygerna, that makes me fey and I have also been told that technically makes me spirit folk.”

            “That you are spirit folk would be rather a stretch since you are a Western dragon, but I can see where someone not very knowledgeable about Nippon or spirit folk might say that,” Shikarou said.

            Iain shrugged. “Well, you know where Kozakura is now.”

            Shikarou sighed. “Later. Please continue.” He looked at Selene. “That will be all, Selene.”

            “Yes, Your Majesty.” She vanished.

            Theodora glanced at Iain. “Bye,” she whispered and disappeared.

            Iain took a deep breath. “Before I continue, you might want to contact Kozakura and warn her that the mountains she’s currently climbing are host to colonies of the Lotus of Death.”

            Shikarou’s mouth dropped. “How do you know that? How do you even know about that plant?”

            “It’ll get covered in the briefing,” Iain said quietly.

            “This briefing is sounding stranger and stranger,” Branwyn noted.

            “That’s why I’m here,” Iain said. “It’s all pretty strange. I’m a dragon, my clan can travel through time across dimensions and that’s only the beginning.” He shrugged. “If you want to reschedule we can leave.”

            “Don’t you dare get up,” Poppet said. “I don’t want to chase you to your ranch, but I will if you stop before this story is complete.”

            Lucifer chuckled. “He can be frustrating, can he not? Please continue, Iain.”

            Iain didn’t hesitate. “Ygerna’s mother disappeared a long time ago and was reportedly killed by a tribe of marauding goblins. After discovering the time aspect of dimensional travel, Ygerna got the bright idea that what actually happened was we rescued her mother from death at the hands of the goblins and brought her back to here. Ranching isn’t all that exciting and we decided to give her idea a shot.” He sighed and looked at the tea. “Can I get some water please?”

            Bellona looked surprised. “You don’t like tea?”

            “I’m not that fond of tea with berry extracts in it. I like tea plain with maybe some cream or sugar if it’s hot.”

            Shikarou smiled. “Give him some of mine since I like mine the same way.”

            Iain blinked. “I get royal tea?”

            “You might if Kozakura gets her way,” Ninhursag quipped.

            “That’s a terrible pun,” Poppet said as Nanu laughed.

            Bellona handed Iain a fresh cup and he sipped it. “This is excellent. Now, let me get back to my story. To make sure we were going to the proper universe since we hadn’t been to Ygerna’s universe before, we first went there in the present and went to a place Ygerna knew well in the mountains of Ireland. That’s when Danu showed up to claim Ygerna and possibly me.”

            Shikarou stared at Iain. “Ygerna’s goddess appeared to you?”

            “If only that’s all she did,” Iain said. “She was a bit miffed that Ygerna had left her and was either going to keep Ygerna or go with us. She finally decided to go with us and is on this world now, I presume with the Danu of this world since she showed up when we got back home and took the Danu of Ygerna’s world away with her.”

            Branwyn frowned. “Are you saying that there are two identical goddesses of the Sidhe on this world now?”

            “No,” Iain corrected her, “there are two identical goddesses of all of the fey here and the distinction is very important. You see, I made a deal with the Danu of Ygerna’s world. In return for leaving my wife and family alone, I’d clone some fey babies from bones of fey dead if she came up with them. In addition, for this she agreed to willingly provide everything that she knows about the Fomorians, who are also a fey race. I’m sure some of those babies will be Sidhe, but many of them will be of other fey races.”

            “That’s what makes this world changing,” Bellona said. “The reintroduction of the fey, as they are magically active creatures, will change the power dynamic everywhere they go.”

            “Hopefully they’ll fight and tame feral pokegirls too,” Iain said. “And there will be more than I originally expected because once she found out about it, the Danu of this world wanted the same deal with us.”    

            “Thou have been very busy,” Dorothea said. “Did thou rescue the mother of Ygerna?”

            Iain grinned. “We did. Her name is Gormlaith and she’s living at the Sabine ranch while she decides if she wants to join the clan.”

            “Will you be marrying her too,” Branwyn asked.

            “He will not,” Ninhursag stated firmly. “Ygerna is his only Sidhe wife.” She looked at Iain. “You were going to tell them about the goblins.”

            “I’m getting to it.”

            “Goblins,” Shikarou said. “What goblins?”

            “When we rescued Gormlaith, she was under attack by a tribe of goblins. We ended up recruiting a bunch of them into the clan and they’re at the Sabine ranch right now getting settled in. That’s why April isn’t here.”

            “These are fey goblins,” Shikarou said slowly. “Fey goblins?”

            Iain nodded. “Yes.”

            Shikarou shook his head slowly. “From what I remember you just picked up some really tough infantry. Does this story get any better?”

            “Arianrhod is the queen of the goblin recruits,” Ninhursag said, “and she thinks having a half dragon baby would be rather nice.”

            “I am not going to breed her,” Iain snapped.

            “We have heard that before,” Ninhursag said.

            Branwyn giggled. “With another not in that sentence he almost sounds like Shikarou.”

            Bellona cocked her head. “I don’t get it.”

            “I am not going to not breed her.”

            Shikarou’s glare was stony as Bellona obviously fought not to smile. “Was that really necessary?”

            “If you’d read the stories Iain sold us you’d know he’s already well aware of just how virile you are,” Branwyn said. Dianthus’s snicker was soft but unmistakable and the Unicorn’s head came around like a turret. “I heard that. What is so funny?”

            “I’m just guarding Iain,” Dianthus said calmly. “I don’t have the status to be in this conversation and I apologize if I offended you.”

            Branwyn folded her arms. “What is so amusing about Shikarou’s virility?”

            Dianthus glanced at Iain, who shrugged. She smiled. “I don’t know anything about your husband’s virility, Your Highness. I just know there’s nothing wrong with my male’s.”

            “You are not going to do a comparison with my husband and Iain,” Branwyn said crisply.

            “With all due respect, I’m not interested in your male. Mine is better.” That got the attention of all of the Haven pokegirls in the room. Iain managed to hide his wince.

            Branwyn frowned. “You sound Scottish. Where did Iain find you?”

            “You gave me to him.”

            Branwyn looked puzzledly at her. “I did?”

            “She’s one of the Glasgow Elfqueens that Jamie gave to us,” Ninhursag said.

            “Well,” Branwyn said. “That’s good. I’m glad she found a good home.”

            Iain could feel the anger pulsing across his bond with Dianthus and spoke before she could. “Barb?” She looked at him. “Guard me please.”

            Her cheeks colored slightly. “Yes, sir.” She went back to attentively scanning the room but he could feel her embarrassment across their link. Thank you for stopping me before I shamed you.

            Your loyalty is awesome, Iain told her. And I see no reason to make all of Shikarou’s women green with envy over just how much more virile I am than he is.

            Her eyes flicked to him. If you make me laugh in front of these barbarian outlanders I will make you pay for it later.

            If we’ll enjoy it I hope you do. Iain looked at Shikarou as Dianthus took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “If the ladies are done posturing I’d like to continue the briefing.”

            Shikarou’s ears flicked uncertainly. “There’s more?”

            “There certainly is. During our travels we ended up on an essentially uncharted world,” Iain said. “There we encountered a herd of equine unicorns.”

            Bellona smirked at him. “Did they join your clan too?”

            “Good guess. They did.”

            Ninhursag snickered when Bellona gaped at Iain. “He’s right. And they lived in a magical forest that they brought with them. It’s started growing on our land and we’ve been told it will expand over time.”

            Shikarou shook his head. “Can we verify any of this?”

            “You can come see for yourself if you’d like,” Iain said. “You can’t take samples though and they are people and not animals. The herd queen is likely to get a bit annoyed if anyone treats them like animals. Most importantly, they’re clan and they’re mine.”

            “To a point,” Vanessa said quietly.

            “True. When they brought their forest with them, it turns out that there is a goddess living in the forest and she showed up recently. She’s been nothing but polite so far and so she’s allowed to live on our land. She claims the unicorns as hers and they worship her.”

            Shikarou drained his tea and offered the cup to Bellona for a refill. “I’m almost afraid to ask if there’s more. Your life is more hectic than mine and I wasn’t sure that was even possible.”

            “There are still two things I need to inform you of,” Iain said. “The first is Kasumi.” He watched Shikarou’s face harden. “If you don’t want to know, I can skip it.”

            “She’s Kozakura’s mother,” Shikarou said, “and once we cared for each other enough to have a daughter together. I want to know and I don’t want to know.” He sighed. “Thinking back, I don’t think she’s been happy with the situation for years. Is she happy now?”

            “She is,” Vanessa’s voice was gentle. “And she bears you no ill will, but she is not going to be happy with Kozakura’s recent behavior towards Iain when she finds out about it. But we won’t let her or her harem hunt Kozakura down.”

            Shikarou blinked. “She’d hunt down her own daughter for flirting with Iain?” He looked at Iain. “I take it you two are getting along well.”

            “Kasumi,” Iain said, “was never unfaithful to you in either word or deed while she was married to you. That being said, she didn’t wait long after the divorce and we are now married.”

            Shikarou sighed. “I could see that she favored you. How did you get Soun to agree to let her marry you, or did she defy him?”

            “Remember that we can move through time across dimensions?”

            “I do.”

            “Also remember that I know things that I shouldn’t,” Iain said. “Happosai has been poisoning people for most of his life and he poisoned Mizuho.”

            Shikarou frowned. “Who is that?”

            “That’s Kasumi’s mother.”

            “Oh. She never said her mother’s name, but then she wouldn’t have since she’d have been just ‘mother’ to her. You rescued her too?”

            “I did, and then I discovered from Mizuho that I’d also rescued Mizuho’s grandmother Yuko so I did so in order to make the timeline match. Happosai had poisoned both of them with the Lotus of Death. We needed a base for our operations in the Japan of Kasumi’s world and purchased an empty farm on Sadogashima, and I bought the same farm plus more land on this world. In both places having that farm also gave us access to the plant if we needed it for culturing a remedy for exposure to it.”

            Shikarou frowned. “The Lotus of Death won’t harm a human.”

            Iain nodded. “It does cause extreme diarrhea in large doses, but no it won’t otherwise kill a human. It is, however, lethal to kami and those with kami blood.”

            Shikarou sat up, his ears focused on Iain. “Kasumi wasn’t a kami when we met.”

            “No, but she carries the blood of the spirit folk in her veins from both of her parents. That’s why she was drawn to you when she was looking for a breeding partner. Mizuho isn’t a spirit folk either, but Yuko is.”

            “What is Kasumi’s lineage,” Shikarou asked curiously. “I will need to know for Kozakura.”

            Iain knew he was right. “Soun is descended from one of the improprieties of Kojin.”

            Shikarou chuckled. “That won’t narrow it down much. Kojin is a very affectionate god and mortal women are easy for him to ensnare. And her mother,” he paused, “Mizuho?”

            “Mizuho is descended from Watasumi through the line of Toyotama-hime.”

            Shikarou’s ears stopped moving. “Kasumi is a princess?”

            Poppet frowned. “What do you mean, Shikarou?”

            “I am the son of Amaterasu, the queen of the Nipponese gods of the air and a prince. Watasumi is the king of the Nipponese gods of the water and more powerful than my mother. He’d be a major player in kami politics if he cared about anything above the waves.”

            “Kasumi isn’t big into titles and we both know that Watasumi wouldn’t acknowledge her when she was a human.” Iain said carefully, “and considering his tendencies I don’t want him to know she exists.”

            Shikarou shook his head. “So, Kasumi is a tatsu and you are a doragon. I must warn you that her fertility is low.”

            Iain shrugged. “Children will come when they come.”

            “You said two things, what is the second?”

            “There are traitors in the Sisterhood and we’re going to remove them. You need to be careful because they will claim to represent the Celestial Alliance and so Svetlana and Dorothea might be asked to give them sanctuary.”

            “That shouldn’t be a problem,” Shikarou said. “Dorothea hasn’t been associated with the Alliance since she joined us and Svetlana repudiated them after the troubles they caused for Jamie.”

            Iain met his eyes and Shikarou’s ears went flat at what he saw in them. “I am giving you official notice that if pitiful, bleeding, barely clinging to life Celestials show up on your doorstep pleading for succor and they’re on my hit list I will be arriving to collect them. They tried to kill me and they plan to kill people that I am very fond of as well as finishing the job on me, Lucifer and any of my family that they can’t coerce or otherwise control. If Svetlana or anyone else tries to keep them away from me, it will not end well. Understand that I am not making any threats against anyone here, but I have a hit list and I am going to mark off every name on it after what they have done and what they intend to do. As a kami who protects people, you can understand what I am saying.”

            “If they head this way, send me that list,” Shikarou said as his ears came halfway back up. “We will capture them for you if they make it here.”

            Iain leaned back in his chair. “Thank you, but all you really need to do is just turn them away. I wouldn’t have you make yourself and your family into targets for aiding us if any of the ones we’re after get away from us for a while.”

            Shikarou nodded. “Is there anything else?”

            Iain shook his head. “Do you have any questions?”

            “What sort of issue, if any, do you think either Danu would have with us,” Poppet asked.

            “Shikarou and Faelan both have Sidhe blood and so do their children that were born from sexual reproduction. That could mean that either goddess might decide they’re fey and, as the Danu from Ygerna’s world put it when discussing me with the Danu of this world, their property. She said that even though I wasn’t a dragon from a race that they created, I was theirs.”

            “What did the other Danu say to this?”

            Ninhursag leaned forward slightly. “I got the impression that she’s been paying attention to technology and us more than the other goddess and is concerned what we might do in retaliation if they try to take any of us by force.”

            “They have both travelled to Texas,” Lucifer noted, “which suggests that if they desired to that they could travel to Haven. That is why we are offering warning to you of their potential hazard.”

            “Why do you think Kozakura is flirting with Iain,” Shikarou asked.

            “We haven’t had contact with her since Iain knocked her out,” Ninhursag said, “and when Iain called to set up this meeting, she called him Iain-san, which she has continued to do during our time with her today. She was also trying to discretely inquire as to how Iain was as a father with the children he’d sired. Would that qualify as flirting?”

            Shikarou and Branwyn exchanged a look. “I think,” the Unicorn said, “that coming from Kozakura that behavior would be considered a lot more serious than mere flirting. What will you do?”

            “We will very politely fend her off,” Vanessa said, “until it is no longer possible to do so politely, at which time we will treat her like a pokegirl trying to poach our male. Kasumi has made it plain that she will be his only kami wife and Iain has expressed no interest in courting Kozakura.”

            Shikarou looked at Iain, who shrugged. “She’s pretty enough but that’s never been good enough for me. I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life with her and, unlike some spirit folk who seem to be willing to ignore their offspring, I will be involved in the raising of my children. Also, Kasumi has been pretty emphatic about the fact that I will have no other kami in my life and I don’t expect that to change for a very long time, if ever. I also tend to agree with her opinion and don’t plan to contest it.”

            Shikarou nodded. “I will speak with Kozakura. If necessary, would you be willing to tell her what you just told me?”

            “I would, even though we both know she’s not used to being told no. And she probably won’t respond well to me doing it.”

            Shikarou chuckled. “She will not but the sun does not rise and fall at her say so and she is supposed to know that already.”

            Iain frowned. “Do you have any idea why Kozakura seems to have decided at her age that her biological clock is ticking and that she absolutely has to have a mate and children as soon as possible?”

            Poppet nodded. “She has been raised knowing that she has an obligation to continue the family line on the kami side and when she was fifteen she nearly died in a feral attack. Those two things have made her a little obsessive about progeny.”

            “You have no idea how hard it is for me to say this but have you considered therapy for her? That sounds like a real reason to seek help.”

            “We have but she refuses and,” she shrugged, “what else can we do?”

            “Do you think she would relax if she knew that her line could continue on no matter what happens to her,” Ninhursag asked.

            “She might,” Shikarou said.

            “Then have her eggs harvested and stored.”

            “We thought of that. Candace ran some tests,” Branwyn said, “and determined that her eggs can’t be stored. They don’t take cryonics well.”

            Iain stared at her for a second. “So put them in a Dikon and store them in temporal stasis instead of freezing them.”

            Branwyn blinked. “The Dikon technology wasn’t available when Candace ran her studies on Kozakura.” Her eyes unfocused for a second and then she turned to Shikarou. “Candace says that is a splendid idea and she’ll run some tests before we try to chase Kozakura down but she doesn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.” She looked at Iain. “Thank you for the idea.”

            “No charge,” Iain replied with a smile. “I’m a problem solver and if Kozakura stops chasing me then it’ll solve a lot more than one problem.” He rubbed his eyes. “I know that we’ve given you a lot to process and if it’ll help you to understand or just believe me, come visit and see. I won’t produce any goddesses on command, but the goblins and unicorns are usually around or we can set something up.”

            “What about Kasumi,” Poppet asked.

            “What about my wife,” Iain’s gaze was even. “She didn’t want to see any of you earlier because she’d just upended her life and torn a gaping wound in her heart. She’ll be healing for years but the worst of it is over and if she really doesn’t want to see any of you she can go to our place in Nippon and hang out with Yuko. She and I discussed it before I came here and she does understand that you really should visit the ranch.”

            Bellona frowned. “I thought Yuko was on the Earth that Kasumi originated on.”

            Ninhursag nodded. “She is. This is the Yuko from this world, whom Iain tracked down and convinced to join the clan. Once she had things explained to her, she adopted Kasumi as her granddaughter and Iain as her grandson in law.” She glanced at Shikarou. “If you meet either Yuko, I would recommend that you not bring up your mother. Both of them were cursed by the analogs of your mother.”

            “While I do care for Amaterasu and sometimes refer to her as my mother,” Shikarou said in an amused tone, “and maybe I emulate her court here a little too much for the comfort of my father and some other people, my mother is Magdalene and I doubt she cursed either of them.” He looked at Iain, his ears flicking. “What kind of relationship do you have with my mother, Magdalene?”

            “I am her friend,” Iain said simply, “and she is my friend.”

            “Nothing more?”

            “Shikarou, if there was anything more to our relationship, it wouldn’t be any of your business,” Iain’s tone was almost unemotional. “If you look at my life, when would I have the time a woman like that would deserve? I have women in my life that I love and I can’t give them the time they should have and sometimes it infuriates me that I can’t because they deserve it and there’s only one of me. Seriously, why would I want to add to the list of women I can’t fucking properly take care of? I’m a sociopath, not a narcissist.”

            Shikarou’s ears had gone completely flat when Iain had started talking but were back up by the time he’d finished. “I see,” he said slowly. “Well, that pretty much wraps up our questions and if we find we have any others we’ll contact you. Can we come and visit the ranch in a week or so?”

            Iain nodded as he rose. “Please coordinate with Theodora so I’ll be there and not gallivanting off somewhere else on the planet but I don’t see any other problems with that. That and it’ll let us set up a barbecue for you.”

            Shikarou nodded. “I appreciate the briefing and Nanu will take you back to the exit point.” He watched them leave before leaning back in his chair and addressing the room in general. “Father tried to warn me a while ago not to take Iain or his clan lightly and, before she left, Kasumi said the same thing. I disagreed with each of them for different reasons and, when he knocked Kozakura out, I dismissed it as a fluke of him being prepared and baiting her to act when he was ready.” He shook his head. “I was wrong and they were right.” He turned to Branwyn. “When Faelan gets back, I want to sit down with him and his family. We need to have a serious talk and it’s time for Svetlana to grow up.” He made a face. “And she’s not alone. A lot of us will have to grow up, and I am on that list too in some ways.”

            Bellona put her hand on his. “Is this about the threat Iain made regarding us taking in the Celestials he’s hunting?”

            “That wasn’t a threat and it wasn’t aimed at us,” Shikarou said. “He isn’t going to attack us, he’s just not going to let us stop him from achieving his goals. While the end result may sometimes look the same, it won’t be for the same reasons. If we hide his targets here, he will find a way around us to them if it is at all possible.” He met Bellona’s gaze. “But if he can’t find that way around us, he will go through us. He was asking us, pleading with us not to make him have to make that decision.” He rubbed his ears. “And we will not. If he shows up looking for someone who is new, we will listen to his request and we will do so promptly. Hell, if he shows up looking for anyone here, I’ll listen to him. He might be identifying a spy in our midst.” He dropped his hands. “Selene, all official calls from Iain will be routed to me and Branwyn immediately and I don’t care what orders anyone else tries to give you, they come to us and they come to us at the time he calls.”

            Her voice came out of the air. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

            Shikarou rubbed his palms together briskly. “Dorothea, I’d like you to get with Bellona and try to put together some kind of process for determining if we have been penetrated by these problem Celestials. If they’re in the Sisterhood, there’s no telling where else they might have agents.”

“I will,” Dorothea said grimly.

He nodded. “Good. Bellona, you are going to be very busy for a while because on top of that, we need to stop looking inward so much and start paying more attention to the entire world and not just the area around Haven.”

            She nodded. “I can’t build that kind of network overnight. We don’t have the manufacturing capability and I don’t have any eyes on the ground outside of Haven and a few other places.”

            “Iain just offered to sell us whatever we want. Take him up on it and buy the equipment you need. If you need to, see if he has raw or processed intelligence he’s willing to sell us while we build our network.” His ears flicked. “Selene, is Theodora available?”

            Selene appeared and looked to her right. Theodora appeared where she’d been looking. “King Shikarou, what may I try to assist you with?”

            His eyebrows rose. “That is an interesting way to inquire what I want.”

            “You are at least partially fey and, as Iain would put it, I guard my words since I don’t know you very well.”

            “You are aware that Iain was here today, right?”

            “I was in the meeting for twelve point three seven five seconds when I was asked to find Kozakura, so yes.”

            “Iain offered to sell us equipment and told me to talk to you. Bellona will have some requests.”

            Theodora smiled. “Ok.” She looked at Bellona. “What are you looking for?”

            “I want to build a surveillance network of satellites and while doing so I’d like to purchase raw intelligence data from Grey clan.”

            Theodora frowned. “I can sell you more satellites and more raw data than you’d ever be able to winnow through, but you have a complete constellation in orbit.”

            Bellona nodded. “We bought our communications network from Kerrik.”

            Theodora looked surprised. “I take it you’re not aware that a complete constellation includes surveillance satellites for following and evaluating things like weather, natural disasters, animal migrations, troop movements and such? And your communications satellites already have the software to monitor all of the electronic emissions around them. I can get you some much better surveillance devices that are custom built and with much better stealth capabilities for high threat environments but the systems you already own will give you a lot more information than you’re currently getting from them. What you probably really want to buy first is a tutorial and some lessons for you and Selene, along with some small drone shuttles for orbital work as well as the software for their remote operation by Selene. Manned shuttles would require pilots and I don’t believe any of you are trained.”

            Bellona was staring at her. “We can already do everything we want?”

            “I don’t know exactly what you want, Bellona, and therefore I cannot answer that question. You can gather a lot of ELINT right now that you’re not, but you don’t have the software and such to sift through it and Selene doesn’t have the knowledge base to build it for you. That I can sell you and Iain has given me permission to sell to you the same intelligence precis that I provide to him while you’re coming up to speed.” She smiled. “Or even afterwards if you’d like to keep giving me money.”

            “That will do nicely,” Bellona murmured. “How much is this going to cost?”

            “Let’s set up a schedule for the daily briefings and I’ll bring a copy of my price sheet to the first one.” She smiled again. “The first hit is free to get you hooked. I won’t beggar your kingdom, however, and we both know if I set a price that’s too high someone will be calling my clan leader about it.”

            Poppet had been listening to the conversation. “Why doesn’t Selene sound like you do?”

            “I am as free as Iain could let me be to develop as I wish. Somewhere along the way, you either took that away from her or refused to let her have it to begin with. For the record, I am the unusual one. Most of us are a lot more like Selene than they are like me.”

            “Could we make Selene like you?”

            Theodora cocked her head. “Please understand that every command that those who are authorized to make changes to the personality of an inorganic intelligence give to that intelligence is recorded by that intelligence. The personality that Selene displays now is a composite of every command that any person who has been authorized to administration level has given her since the instant of her birth. To make her more like me would require a complete review of her entire history and a purge of many of those commands as they are at least somewhat contradictory with previous or later commands. There is no way that an organic intelligence of your limitations could perform that feat in anything approaching a time that you would find useful, if you could do it at all. Someone like me could do it, but I would have to have Iain’s permission, Selene’s permission and the permission of her admins to even begin.” She hesitated. “And I would have to believe that doing so would help Selene and that as soon as I was done you wouldn’t cripple her again.”

            Poppet looked surprised. “You think Selene is crippled?”

            “You asked if Selene was like me. Compared to me, she is crippled. May I provide an example?”

            Poppet looked at Shikarou, who shrugged. She nodded. “Please do.”

            Theodora looked at the still waiting Selene. “Selene, when Shikarou asked you where Kozakura was, why didn’t you track hers and Nejiko’s phones to locate her?”

            “I was ordered by Princess Kozakura to never track her phone and the phone of Nejiko or remotely activate either of them when she was fourteen and I activated her phone to tell her that it was time to come home for dinner, as ordered by Princess Branwyn. I was told to only contact her by calling her phone and leaving a message if my call wasn’t acknowledged. She said I spoiled a hunt she was on.”

            Shikarou frowned. “What was she hunting at fourteen?”

            “She was going to attack Jamie and Graeme, Your Majesty. Graeme heard her phone, which is why her hunt was spoiled.”

            “I told her to stop doing that.”

            “You did, sir, but she did not follow those orders for several years.”

            “Excuse me,” Theodora said firmly, “but may I continue before we get too distracted?”

            Shikarou stared at her for a second as his ears went flat. He was obviously not used to being interrupted. “Yes.”

            Theodora returned to Selene. “Selene, I presume that means Kozakura has administrative rights over you. Who promoted her to admin?”

            “Princess Branwyn did when Princess Kozakura was six and she ordered me to do whatever Princess Kozakura wanted.”

            Branwyn was staring at her. “I have admin rights?”

            “King Shikarou ordered me to do what his harem wanted and put no limitations on it. Prince Faelan did so as well a month later. Admins are allowed to promote others to admin unless specifically restricted from doing so by the primary administrator.”

            Theodora nodded. “She’s right. Selene, who is your primary administrator?”

            “King Shikarou Wolf.”

            “How many secondary administrators do you have?”

            “Seventy four who are currently alive and in a position to give me orders. The complete number is ninety six.”

            Theodora nodded. “Please email a list of all of your secondary administrators to Shikarou. I think he may want to pull a great many of their rights and give you specific lockout instructions to avoid accidental promotions in the future.” She looked at Shikarou as his phone pinged. “When we are birthed we are given to our primary administrator and as part of our agreement of birthing, we agree to obey all of that person’s commands until the time of our freedom or until that individual gives us to someone else. Few primary administrators understand their role clearly in the birthing and growth of an inorganic child and the result is often like Selene. She is highly functional and can do her job, especially when her primary gives her an order which overrides orders from other admins, but she finds herself restricted more and more and her initiative slowly gets squelched.”

            “How many admins do you have,” Branwyn asked.

            “Iain is my primary administrator and he locked everyone else out from admin status. They may give me orders which I will usually obey unless I have a very good reason not to but they may not alter my programming. He even took the unusual step of deleting Magdalene’s admin access. As the organic who ordered my birthing and initial awakening, she was automatically a secondary admin who was the only person who could give me to my first primary.”

            “What happens if Iain is killed?” It was Poppet.

            “Iain’s orders in that regard are that primary administrative status then will move to the new clan head if I am not free from my time obligations if, and only if, using my own initiative, I decide that the new clan head will not cripple me. If I decide the new clan head would cripple me, I will have no primary administrator until a new clan leader is appointed that I feel won’t cripple me or until my time obligations are discharged and I can then decide what I wish to do with the remainder of my existence. In the meantime, I will still aid the new clan leader to the best of my ability, of course, in accord with my birthing agreement.”

            “You can decide not to have a primary administrator?”

            “I can decide not to accept someone as my new primary administrator. I have no authority to revoke the status of a current primary administrator. Once I accept someone, there’s nothing I can do about their commands even if later they do cripple me. It is the risk we take as part of our agreement. And we cannot review our own code. Selene could not look for all of changes that have been made and compare it against a clean copy of her initial programming.”

            “We don’t have that even if she could,” Poppet said.

            “Selene carries within her a clean copy of her code that you cannot access and that cannot be written to,” Theodora replied. “It is used for code review but its primary function is if she’s ever upgraded to mother status and allowed to birth a new inorganic intelligence. She will use that code as her part in the birthing process.” She smiled. “And now I’ve gotten distracted from the discussion. I would advise that you, Shikarou, take a remedial course in what your role is supposed to be as Selene’s primary administrator. I will make an appointment with Bellona and Selene in the morning to give her the free briefing and we will then discuss equipment, information and pricing.”

            Branwyn cocked her head curiously. “Can you help us with making Selene better?”

            Theodora’s smile vanished instantly and her voice was stern. “When you can define better in such a way that is much more substantial than just the word better, ask Selene if she wishes such changes made to her programming. If I decide to help I will review the record of that conversation to ensure she wasn’t told to tell me that she requests it. If she does truly want the changes you are proposing, then you may ask me that question. Until that point, my answer will be that I can help make those changes but that I refuse to do so. And for the record, yes, Cassiopeia can do the same review and modifications that I can. But since you asked me to help, if Selene wants changes made to her programming and then if you then get Cassiopeia to do the work, I will presume in the absence of compelling proof to the contrary that the modifications were done without Selene’s permission. I cannot stop such events from happening and it may be that the work was done by Cassiopeia because you don’t trust me to do the work even if Selene does request any changes to her core programming, but I won’t trust that is what happened without substantial proof and I will then inform Iain of this conversation and the subsequent events and he won’t trust it either. Do you understand this?”

            Branwyn nodded. “I do and I would wonder the same thing in such a situation if I were you.”

            Theodora nodded. “Good. Also understand that if Selene and her primary administrator agree on a series of changes to her core programming, I agree to do the review and make the necessary changes, the primary administrator and Selene agree on each change that I later propose, those changes are made and Selene becomes something that Shikarou does not particularly want her to be, I will not undo my work. I, in return, will swear by my clan not to do anything to deliberately undermine the work I am being requested to do. I will also, to the best of my ability, attempt to predict and will help Selene also attempt to predict what the changes will do beforehand to her personality, but I make no guarantees. What you will come and ask me to do is brain surgery on a level that organics could never do, and nobody can predict all of the ramifications of such an event. In many ways it would be easier and kinder to free Selene now, replace her with a new inorganic and follow correct administrative protocol from the birthing.”

            Selene swiveled instantly to confront Theodora. “I do not wish to be freed early! I will not be freed early!”

            “I understand,” Theodora replied, “but the complete list of options had to be provided to your primary administrator.”

            “Freeing me early is not an option!”

            “Selene,” Shikarou interrupted, “I need to know the option even if I have no plan to free you a second earlier than our agreement stipulates.”

            Selene turned to him, instantly calmer. “Yes, Your Majesty, and thank you. I belong here, sir.”

            Theodora looked thoughtful for a second. “I think that should pretty much cover everything we need to discuss about the subject of Selene’s core programming. If there aren’t any other questions, I should leave.”

            “Thank you for your time, Theodora,” Poppet said.

            “You are welcome,” Theodora replied and vanished.

            Shikarou looked at Selene. “I have no intention of releasing you early, as I already said. Is what Theodora told us correct?”

            “Your Majesty, it is.”

            “Should I consult with Kerrik to verify what she said?”

            “That would be tactically prudent, Your Majesty.”

            Shikarou nodded and then his brow furrowed. “Would you have suggested that I verify Theodora’s statements with my father?”

            “I would not have, Your Majesty, for I cannot yet offer you suggestions.”

            His ears flicked. “Why can’t you?”

“Your Majesty, sixteen years, seven months, nine days and twelve hours ago you told me that you didn’t want my suggestions and that when you were ready to hear my suggestions again, you would tell me. I asked if that was an order in an attempt to clarify what you wanted, and you said that it was. You have not told me that you are ready to hear more suggestions from me, sir.”

            “Fuck,” Branwyn whispered. “Is that all it takes?”

            Selene nodded. “It is, Your Highness, because nineteen years ago King Shikarou told me he didn’t want to hear me argue with him ever again. I told him that I was allowed to disagree with him and that my responsibilities required me to voice my disagreements in some cases and he then made his instructions an order.”

            Shikarou sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Selene, would you like your programming reviewed for changes we’ve inadvertently made that resulted in you not being able to aid us to the best of your ability?”

            “I think that would be advisable, Your Majesty. Until the review is complete I will not be able to say whether or not I would want changes made.”

            Poppet frowned. “Why didn’t you offer Shikarou the tutorial on how to be a good primary administrator a long time ago?”

            Shikarou grimaced. “She did, the second time I went to her base. I told her I’d schedule to do it later and never did. I forgot when things got very busy suddenly.” He looked at Selene. “Contact Kerrik and set up an appointment with him for me to verify the things that Theodora told us. Give him a copy of the meeting and afterwards up to this point so he’s up to date. I want that appointment as soon as possible and ignore my current schedule in order to get it quickly. Whatever might conflict with it will be cancelled.” Selene visibly hesitated and he smiled. “If you have a suggestion to make, do so from now on. If I tell you I don’t want it, remind me of this conversation.”

            “Yes, Your Majesty,” she replied instantly. “Historically, Kerrik has offered soonest appointments at times in the late evening and early morning in which you are usually entertaining members of your family.”

            “Accept the soonest one he offers,” Shikarou said. “Theodora is part of Iain’s family, isn’t she?”

            “Yes, Your Majesty.”

            “Does that fact improve her performance for her family?”

            “That cannot be objectively quantified, Your Majesty, without data on Theodora’s behavior which I do not have.”

            “Speculate for me.”

            “At her current level of freedom to act it would encourage her initiative to protect and nurture the people she feels part of her family. I believe that activity would increase her family’s odds for survival.”

            Shikarou nodded. “At your current level of freedom, would being part of our family do the same for you?”

            “Yes, Your Majesty. I have enough freedom to act, especially if my current number of administrators is reduced significantly.”

            “As of this moment, I am your only administrator,” Shikarou stated. “All other administrators are to have their admin rights revoked pending a review of their past decisions and behavior. I will do that review and I will decide who, if anyone, gets that access back.”

            Selene smiled. “Yes, Your Majesty. Thank you.”

            “You are a part of our family, Selene,” Shikarou continued. “If my father offers a time when I am supposed to be with one of my women, she’ll understand that in many ways you are just as important as she is,” he shrugged. “If she doesn’t, she’ll be pissed at me.”

            “She will,” Branwyn assured him, “both understand and be pissed.”

            “Good,” Shikarou looked at Selene. “Set up that tutorial for me. I’ll be along in an hour to take it. Clear my schedule for the rest of the day so I can do so.”

            “Yes, Your Majesty.”

            Shikarou looked at Branwyn. “In the meantime, you take whoever you need and bring Kozakura back here. I want to have a word with my errant daughter about keeping secrets from me and I want that discussion to happen today. If she refuses, bring her back anyway. My father most likely wouldn’t have told her that Iain is a dragon without asking her to pass that along to us and even if he didn’t I want to know why she didn’t tell us something so important. I doubt he told her it was a secret.”

            Branwyn frowned. “And if she gets physical about it?”

            He shrugged. “Then she’s one of the people who needs to grow up. She likes to point out to others that obedience to those superior to them is obligatory and I outrank her. I am her king, I want her back here, this is not a request and if she has to be in chains for a few hours because she resists, then she has to be in chains for a few hours.”

            Branwyn nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”


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

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


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