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Belldandy gave Iain an annoyed look. “I felt the transition when we walked through that door, Iain, and the walls are now made of metal. Where are we?”
Iain smiled at her, trying not to laugh out loud as her frustration visibly increased. “I’m not going to tell you. You have no need to know where we are.” He turned and headed down the hallway. Ganieda falling in behind him. “But you do need to follow me.”
They were on the Theodora, which was currently orbiting the planet Mars while doing a geological survey and working on the program to deploy system wide communication arrays and refueling stations. Iain wasn’t going to take a chance on his prisoners somehow managing to get out of their cell anywhere near Earth. It meant bringing Belldandy and her sisters on board, but Iain had decided to keep them as much in the dark as possible, at least for the moment.
“Iain,” Urd asked. “Was that a tank? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Iain glanced back at her. “Theodora made it and it’s so far unique. It’s there to keep things from coming here without my permission. Anything that it can’t stop will at least warn us to its presence when it destroys the tank.”
“I’m not sure I want to meet whatever can destroy that thing,” Skuld muttered.
Iain looked back at her and grinned. “You and me both.”
Theodora had moved the brig in relation to the chamber of doors so that it was just a short walk and therefore they arrived only a few minutes later. Once they were there, Iain turned to the three women. “Inside there are multiple phase and teleport blocks in place, so be warned. Now please wait here for a second while I check on something and then we can go in so Belldandy can talk to the prisoners.”
He stepped into the brig. “Alabaster, Onyx.”
The two Dragonesses appeared out of the semidarkness the brig was currently lit with. “My lord,” Alabaster said.
Iain held out his arm. “I have some Celestials coming in here who don’t need to know about my dead harem so I want you to ride me.”
Onyx shook her head. “We cannot, my lord. Neither of us have progressed far enough in our magic studies to learn how to do that yet.”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “Eirian isn’t keeping your studies deliberately slow, is she?”
“She is not, my lord,” Alabaster said. “Our slayer took younger Dragonesses than their slayer did and we had only begun our magical training when we were betrayed to him. After he slew us, we were not given much instruction in the arts of magic. Of us, only Lapis is advanced enough to ride you. She was his chosen to aid him and his brother and she received training that we did not.”
Iain nodded. “Then return to the Titan base and send me Liadan and Eirian, please, if they’re not busy with another project. If so, have Eirian send me two who can ride me and are powerful melee fighters.”
Alabaster bowed. “Yes, my lord.” The two Dragonesses stepped into nearby shadows and vanished into them.
“What does it feel like to have them on you,” Ganieda asked quietly.
“I don’t think I can explain how it feels and you don’t need the memory of it.”
“I am not that curious and I wasn’t asking for the memory.”
Iain glanced at her as Eirian and Liadan appeared. “My lord,” Eirian said. “Onyx explained the situation. You wish us to protect you if the prisoners escape. What of your guests?”
“Just me. Ganieda can protect herself and Theodora will zap the prisoners before they get too far.”
Eirian looked at Liadan. “Guard him well.” She dissolved into smoke and took her place on Iain’s right arm.
Liadan’s white eyes met Iain’s. “My lord,” she said, “I serve you loyally and I am the most powerful of your dead harem. And yet, you seldom call upon me.”
“All things change,” Iain replied formally. “And now I call up on you to protect me from my enemies.”
She smiled broadly enough to reveal her black teeth. “My lord, I will guard you with all of my power.” She took his left wrist and flowed onto his skin, forming a perfect image of herself on his wrist.
“She didn’t turn into smoke,” Ganieda noted.
“Yeah, that’s new.” Iain glanced at the Splice. “Is there a Celestial in your mix?”
“I remember one. Her name was Alejandra and she was a Seraph from Silver River that Geraldine took a liking too and pursued. She wanted Alejandra to fuck, but Alejandra told her that she was evil and tried to kill Geraldine, who then had her captured and blended into me.”
Iain shook his head. “She was a hoot. Now that I have my dead harem protecting me, if the prisoners manage to escape you are released to kill them as fast as you can. Messy is fine, just fast.”
Ganieda’s fangs glinted in her smile. “You give me the nicest gifts, Iain.”
“Only if they get free, mind you.”
“I understand. Have you picked who will execute them?”
Iain glanced at her. “What’s the betting like?”
“The odds are that you’ll do it yourself, of course.”
“Is there a good reason to suggest I don’t do exactly that?”
“It’ll help Belldandy and the others like you a little more if you delegate the execution to a trusted subordinate. Now that they think you’re their friend, they worry about your soul.”
“They’d like that too, but then I have yet to scan a pokegirl who wouldn’t.”
“There’s Kerrik’s harem.”
“No, they want to fuck you too.”
Iain’s head came around. “What?”
“They had to face the idea that you might kill Kerrik when you restored his powers and he wanted you to take care of them. While that didn’t happen, they did think about it and it made them curious about what being with you would be like and why Kerrik would want you to be their male. The most curious one of the group is Morwen, but I think that’s because she was a virgin before becoming a Vampire and Kerrik has been her only male.”
“Aren’t the others dark types that you can’t read?”
Ganieda shrugged. “I can read even dark types if I touch them. I know that Morwen and Autumn want to fuck you. As for Raven, Misery and Whisper, they want to fuck you too.”
Iain took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Let’s go get Belldandy and her sisters.”
Ganieda grinned suddenly. “You want to fuck them.”
“Do not go telling that,” Iain said firmly.
“Do you want to fuck Belldandy and the others?” Her grin widened as her ears rotated to point attentively at him. “You do.”
“It does not matter what I might want,” Iain shrugged. “I can’t give the women already in my life the attention that they deserve.”
Ganieda chuckled softly. “We think you do but we appreciate you not trying to add more women to the mix.”
“Then be careful what you say and who you say it to.” He frowned. “Your antennae are not in your ears, right?”
“I don’t need antenna and no, I don’t have antenna and my ears are not antenna.”
“Why do your ears do many of the same things Canaan’s antenna do then when you’re reading people? If you don’t need to do it then it’s a pretty obvious tell.”
Ganieda frowned and then her face scrunched in a scowl. “Motherfucker, you’re right.”
“I often am. Just work on the habit and you’ll be fine.” He waited a few seconds. “You ready to put on a good face for Belldandy and company?”
Ganieda’s scowl smoothed. “I am. Thank you for keeping this between us.”
“I aim to please, my pretty doe.” He stepped outside the brig. “Ladies, please come with me.”
“What took so long,” Urd asked curiously.
“I had to make sure things were ready for you,” Iain replied. He waved the ladies inside. “As you can see, the brig is set up for short term occupation.” Iain gestured at the cells. “Raphaela and Prastara are in Cell One.”
The two Megami-Sama were nude with only a one-centimeter wide black ribbon around each of their necks. They were sitting on beds that were angled at ninety degrees to one another and talking but their voices couldn’t be heard. Urd waved to them and turned to Iain with a perplexed look when the two women didn’t respond. “What’s going on?”
“They can’t see us. The forcefield covering the entrance can be set to opaque, one way or two way. Right now the sound is blocked too.” He looked at Belldandy. “Ready to talk to them?”
She nodded. “I am.”
“Theodora, institute control protocols with manual override, shift the forcefield to two way visual and activate the audio systems for my guests here, please.”
Her voice sounded from the air. “Done. Prastara is Collar One and Raphaela is Collar Two.”
Iain looked at the two women. “Ladies,” the two women jumped to their feet and whirled to face them. “I am Iain Grey and I am your jailer.”
Prastara stared at him and her face reddened. “Why are we here,” she snarled loudly while ignoring the fact that she was naked. Or perhaps she was so loud because of that fact.
“You tried to kill Belldandy, her sisters and friends, you ordered the deaths of several of my people and you stole Lucifer’s ship. You’re here because Belldandy wanted you taken alive. Now, please be polite to her. She’s been under a lot of strain recently, what with your attempt to murder her.”
“We didn’t do anything,” Raphaela said as Belldandy joined Iain. “Bell, we’re your friends.”
Belldandy gave Iain a puzzled look and he smiled. “Remember that the confessions you saw were put together by Theodora from their memories. They don’t know you’re aware of what they were trying to do.”
“What confessions,” Prastara demanded. “We didn’t confess to anything!”
“What is the thing on their necks,” Urd asked quietly.
“It’s a control collar,” Iain replied. “It is a neural link for Theodora to monitor them with and with it she keeps them from using any of their abilities and monitors them to ensure they’re not going feral. Needless to say, clan law is very strict about when its use is allowed. Usually it’s just for these kinds of situations. That and they have to be able to be monitored in real time at a close distance so the monitor can react quickly enough to keep them from activating a technique.”
“They’re telling the truth,” Urd said.
Skuld snorted. “They didn’t do anything. It was their subordinates who actually did things.” She moved next to Belldandy. “You say you didn’t do anything and you didn’t confess to anything. Both of those statements are true. Did you plan to have us killed? Did you plan to kidnap Iain? Did you order the theft of the ship from Lucifer and the Sisterhood? What do you say to those questions?”
Prastara exchanged a look with Raphaela. “You aren’t our superior and we don’t answer to you.”
“No,” Belldandy said. “You do not answer to Skuld. I am the supreme commander of the Alliance and you answer to me. Did you plan to have us killed if we wouldn’t go along with your ideas of how to rule over humanity?” She held up a hand as Prastara opened her mouth. “Understand that Evelyn did confess to everything she knew and we already know that her orders came from you two.”
Prastara glared at her. “We are innocent until proven guilty and Evelyn would never talk to you.”
“May I,” Iain asked quietly.
Belldandy blinked and nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Prastara,” Iain said amusedly, “the United States is dead, it’s laws are not applicable anymore, you were never an American citizen and you helped to destroy it. And just for the record, Evelyn did confess and we have the video of it.”
Urd smiled. “Besides, why wouldn’t Evelyn talk to us if she had nothing to hide?”
Raphaela stepped forward. “Where is Evelyn?”
Belldandy gave her a grim look. “She was executed three days ago after her confession damned her.”
Prastara looked shocked. “You don’t kill people, Bell. That goes against everything you stand for.”
“I don’t do it easily,” Belldandy corrected her. “But your actions and the actions of your people gave me no choice. The hatred you share is too all encompassing for me to let them live. If they’d gotten free they’d have gone after my sisters and I can’t allow that. You and yours were interfering with the mission.” She gave them a grim look. “I was reminded that the mission is paramount and the confessions I watched from you two confirmed that my mission and yours are not the same thing and that you will never accept my mission.” She sighed. “I would still let you go but your plans require that I and my sisters die and I will not let you harm Skuld or Urd so I cannot let you live.”
“We did not confess anything,” Prastara protested. “We are innocent.”
Iain put his hand on Belldandy’s shoulder. “Yes or no answer, ladies. Did you plan to kill Belldandy, Skuld and Urd?”
Raphaela’s eyes hardened. “Humans need a firmer hand than Bell was willing to use on them.”
Iain gave her a grim smile. “Did you plan to kill Belldandy, Skuld and Urd?”
Prastara folded her arms. “Go to hell, human.”
Iain’s smile faded. “Collar One.” Prastara didn’t move for a second and then slowly toppled backwards to slam into the floor. Her body was rigid as a board and bounced at the impact. Raphaela stared at her in shock until Iain spoke again. “I didn’t say the question was optional, Prastara, and there was no reason to be rude about it. In thirty seconds the paralysis will wear off and you will be able to move and breathe again. Raphaela, she can still hear me though and you both should be aware that every activation of the collar lasts an additional fifteen seconds from the previous activation. In the meantime, it’s your turn.” Raphaela’s head jerked up to stare at Iain. “What is the answer to my question?”
Raphaela’s words almost tumbled over each other as she rushed to speak. “We only intended to kill them if it was absolutely necessary.” Iain regarded her for several seconds and she flushed. “Yes, damn it!”
“Thank you.” Iain watched as Prastara groaned and rolled over, rubbing at the back of her head. “So, are you still feeling feisty?” Prastara glared at him with hate filled eyes. “Look, if you want to hurry this along, I can accommodate you and just execute you here and now. I will lose exactly zero sleep over you. Belldandy wanted you taken alive so she could decide your guilt or innocence and what price you would pay for your actions if guilty. I would suggest using your time trying to get leniency out of her. She’s a kind-hearted woman and will forgive a lot of things.” He folded his hands behind his back. “Next question: did you plan to purge the Celestial Alliance of the people who disagreed with your philosophy towards humanity by murdering them?”
Raphaela looked at him nervously and tried to smile engagingly. “Will you punish us if we refuse to answer a question?”
Iain shook his head. “I won’t. Refusing to answer is a choice and it’s not intrinsically rude.”
“Then we refuse to answer,” Prastara snapped.
Iain looked at Belldandy. “Of course, a refusal to answer a simple question could be construed as an answer to it.”
She nodded. “It could and it is.”
Raphaela gave Belldandy a pleading look. “Bell, you know us. We’re not what he’s painting us to be. We all only want what’s best for the humans. If you let us go, we’ll leave peacefully.”
Belldandy gave Iain a hopeful glance. “She’s telling the truth.”
“Ask her for the rest.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Ask her if she or Prastara still believe that humans need to be controlled instead of loved and if that belief will put them and whatever organization they put together at odds with you and your belief that humans need to be loved and aided while letting them make their own way as much as possible.”
“That will never work,” Prastara snapped. “Cattle need to be controlled.”
“Shut up,” Raphaela yelled at her.
Iain turned to Belldandy and her sisters. “Belldandy, they aren’t going to give you what you want. Whether they were or not in the beginning, they are not your friends now, they’re not going to repent and they’re not going to rededicate themselves to your dreams. They’re fanatics and fanatics are always right and they’ll never see the fallout from their actions as ever being harmful since it doesn’t hurt them.”
Skuld put a hand on his arm. “How much did their attack hurt your people?”
“We’re still chasing some runners but so far we’ve had twenty-seven personnel killed and seventeen kits were completely orphaned while another five lost one parent. Lucifer’s ship will have to have the back third chopped off and completely rebuilt. In any terrestrial navy it would probably have been scrapped, but that’s just metal and energy. Lucifer is looking to have to execute over a hundred prisoners, so the butcher’s bill isn’t quite complete yet. It was chaotic. We had friends fighting friends and sisters killing each other because one of them had turned. The Sisterhood is large enough to absorb those losses, but Lucifer has always been big into camaraderie and esprit de corps and this is the first time in the Sisterhood’s history that she had traitors in her organization, so the shock from the whole event is still reverberating through the Sisterhood. A lot of the dead on our side were people in command positions and Lucifer was friends with several of them. Only our advanced technology and magic kept the numbers from being higher.” Iain put his hand over hers and squeezed gently before peeling it from his arm. “But this isn’t about what happened to the Sisterhood. It’s about the threat these two and their henchgirls posed to you and yours.”
Urd giggled. “I like that word.”
Belldandy sighed. “You’re right, Iain. There’s nothing for me here.”
“You know, it’s all right to feel pain for what you have to do,” Iain said quietly.
She blinked at him. “It is?”
“You want to help and nurture all of humanity so that it can better itself. While in your mind you’re a pokegirl and, in some ways, all of you have bought into the whole pokegirls aren’t human concept since it started with Scott. However, another part of you knows that it isn’t true and Prastara and Raphaela are humans too, just like you are. Your heart bleeds for all humans, even the bad ones and you certainly don’t want to condemn any of them if you can somehow avoid it.”
Tears glimmered in the corners of Belldandy’s eyes and she suddenly hugged him hard. “Thank you, Iain.”
Iain hugged her back and managed not to look relieved when he released her and she let him go in response. “We’re going to the swimming hole this afternoon. Why don’t you three stick around and go with us. It’ll let you play with the kids and you can chase Lucifer’s ones in the water, which is always cathartic.”
“I would like that,” she said quietly.
He smiled. “Swimsuits are optional but I will try not to openly ogle all of you if you don’t wear one.”
Belldandy smacked his chest lightly. “Hush, you.” She looked around the room. “I find this place depressing. Can we go now?”
“Theodora will lead you back. I’ll shut down the room and Ganieda will stick around with me but we’ll join you in a few minutes.”
Ganieda waited until they were gone. “You need to watch out for her and the others. You keep helping them and they’ll get the idea you want them to join us permanently. Eventually they’ll decide they can overlook what you are just like Lucifer and Eve have since they’ve never seen you unleash the darkness.”
“I am so not the guy they need,” Iain muttered. “Can’t we just be friends?”
“She can’t do it,” Prastara said suddenly.
Iain turned to her. “Excuse me?”
“Bell can’t kill us.” Prastara grinned at him. “It’s not in her nature.”
“She knows that.”
“So you might as well let us go now.”
Ganieda laughed. “Belldandy asked Iain to execute you if she decides you deserve death.”
Prastara’s eyes narrowed. “She’d never do that.”
“She did ask him and he agreed to do it.,” Ganieda replied. “And we’re all volunteering to carry out the sentence.”
Iain shook his head. “We’re wasting our time talking with these two. Theodora, take the room back to normal standby lighting and the collars are back in automatic.”
“Thank you, Iain,” she replied softly. “I have the prisoners.”
Iain looked at his arms. “Ladies, I think I want you to stick around to guard me for a while yet.”
We are glad to protect you, my lord, Eirian said to him.
I only hope that you will continue to call upon me, my lord, Liadan replied.
“Thank you and I will.”
“I refuse to wear this.” The helmet slammed to the ground next to the pile of body armor.
Iain looked around to identify the speaker. He didn’t know this particular goblin, but then he still hadn’t met most of the goblins individually. But they were all here, watching this incident unfold and that meant he had to deal with it. “What’s your name?”
The goblin drew himself up proudly. “I am Drust and a great warrior.”
Arianrhod’s punch to Drust’s abdomen drove him to his knees as he tried to gasp air around a paralyzed diaphragm. “Great is an exaggeration and show respect to the clan leader,” she snarled.
Iain waved her away. “Drust, I could point out that when I told you to put that on it wasn’t a request, but I think it’ll be easier for everyone if I instead demonstrate why you do want to wear that.”
Drust warily watched Arianrhod as he clambered back to his feet. “I have seen the weapons you claim this will protect me from. Those tiny rocks cannot hurt me.”
“Your challenge is accepted,” Iain said loudly. “Sofia, get me an M16 and some standard sales ammo.” Sofia nodded and raced off as Iain turned back to Drust. He actually suspected that Drust might be more right than not where the 5.56mm military FMJ boat tail round might be concerned. Oh, they’d injure him but probably not very severely. However, that wasn’t what he was selling to the Texans who were crazy enough not to upgrade to a larger bore rifle for fighting feral pokegirls. “Here’s what we are going to do. We’ll start a hundred paces apart and all you have to do is knock me down. You can carry your regular weapons and don’t be afraid to use them on me.” Dianthus’ eyes narrowed angrily as he continued. “Not that it’ll matter. Once I’ve incapacitated you then I’ll put on your armor and Sofia will use the same rifle on me to try and keep me from getting to her.” Sofia returned at a sprint with a pair of M16s, an M4 carbine and a leather carrying case full of filled thirty round box magazines that would fit all of them.
“Sofia should be the shooter both times.” Dianthus snarled from behind him.
“No, she shouldn’t.” Sofia had been opening her mouth but stopped and nodded at the firmness of Iain’s tone. “Don’t worry, Drust, I won’t kill you today.”
“He would not be missed,” Arianrhod muttered.
“Yes, he would,” Iain corrected her with a smile. “If nothing else, he can still throw a spear and then soak up arrows and bullets meant for useful goblins. However, he’s going to learn the error of his ways today and then he’ll be as useful as the next goblin.” He took one of the M16s and the satchel of magazines from Sofia. “My dear, will you referee?”
“I will,” she said before swiveling to face Drust. “Do your worst, Drust, for my male will certainly be the victor today.” She paced off a hundred meters. “Drust will stand here.”
As Drust grabbed his weapons and moved into position, Iain slammed a magazine into his rifle and hit the release, catching it when the spring shot it out of the magazine well and then putting it back in, satisfying himself that the release was clean and smooth. Then he charged the first round and double checked the safety before wrapping his arm in the sling to lock the weapon to his shoulder.
Sofia took her post in between the combatants. “Are you ready, Iain?”
“Are you ready, Drust?”
The goblin lifted his spear slightly in preparation for throwing it. “Yes!”
Be careful, Sofia whispered in Spanish to Iain through her twee. “Begin!”
Drust hurled his spear and charged. Iain waited a second and stepped two paces to the right so the spear would sail harmlessly past him, sighted carefully on Drust’s chest and squeezed off the first three round burst. The jacketed hollow point rounds staggered the goblin but he continued his charge. Iain emptied the magazine into him, smoothly dropped the empty, slapped a new one in, charged it and emptied it into Drust as well. Drust hit the ground, writhing in pain from the sixty bullets that had shredded his chest. Iain loaded another magazine and walked to within a dozen paces of the downed goblin. “This is what an enemy would do,” he said loudly to the assembled goblins and then emptied the third magazine into Drust before reloading again.
He slowly approached, rifle ready, before speaking in a calm, even voice. “If you so much as twitch in my direction I will shoot you more, and this time in the head. Nod if you understand me.” Drust nodded once. He glanced up as Arianrhod raced in their direction and then he knelt next to the goblin warrior. “Drust, if you ever have a question about why I told you to do something, you’re free to ask. Do you understand that?” With his perception he saw Arianrhod stop beside him. Drust nodded slowly. “Good. However, you do not get to ever undermine my authority by telling me no in front of the other goblins after I give you an order. Do you understand that?” Drust looked into his eyes and nodded frantically. “Good, because next time I will not be so understanding of blatant and open disobedience.” Iain raised the rifle and slammed the butt of the stock into Drust’s forehead hard enough to shatter the polymer stock, knocking the goblin unconscious. He put a finger on Drust’s neck, stood and looked at Sophia. “Medic!”
“She’s on the way,” Sofia replied.
Iain looked at Arianrhod, who was watching him curiously. “Questions?”
“No, clan leader, although I am surprised you did not kill Drust for his disobedience.”
“He is a member of my clan and he’s still learning what that means,” Iain said quietly. “Clan leaders typically don’t go around murdering their clanswomen. Once he realizes that I wasn’t soft in letting him live he’ll come around. In the meantime, the others will understand that I wasn’t showing weakness considering I nearly bashed his brains out. Rather than kill him, I used him as a lesson for the others. He’ll live and hopefully not put me in that position again and they’ll decide they don’t want me to shoot them next.” He hit the magazine release and cycled the weapon to extract the chambered round. “Which they don’t because next time I’ll use my pistol and it makes much bigger holes than this little gun.”
April appeared and ran over to Drust. “What happened to him,” she asked as she knelt beside him and began healing him.
“I did,” Iain replied. “I’ll explain later but right now Sofia gets to shoot me,” April’s head came up and he smiled, “with 5.56 rounds after I put on the armor the goblins should be wearing.”
April looked thoughtful and then nodded. “He didn’t want to wear it?”
“He told me no to my face in front of the other goblins.”
April looked down at her unconscious patient. “Do you think he still has a death wish or did he actually think he could score political points off of you?”
“He thought he could advance his breeding potential by defying his clan leader,” Arianrhod said. “It is within your rights to geld him.”
April snickered as Iain dropped the broken assault rifle on the ground and picked up the body armor Drust had refused to begin putting it on. He smiled slightly. “Arianrhod, do you think that Drust here improved his breeding potential by what he did today?”
The goblin woman turned and hawked a gobbet of spit neatly onto Drust’s crotch. “He proved he’s a fool. No one in their right mind challenges a dragon when it’s being tricksy and he did it in public. No goblin who can outfight him will be his mate and most of us can. He’d be better off trying to bugger a goat.” She spat on Drust again. “If the goat was crippled and unconscious.”
“Then I think he did a good enough job of gelding himself that I don’t feel it necessary to try and improve on his work.”
Arianrhod stared at Iain for a second and then threw back her head and bellowed her laughter into the sky. When she finally stopped she grinned at him. “Well said, clan leader.”
Iain put on the helmet and tightened everything down as best he could, considering that Drust was several centimeters taller and broader than he was and the armor had been built to properly fit the goblin. He looked at Sofia. “Are you willing to do this,” he asked quietly.
“I am worried that I might hit you in the head,” she said as she took the satchel of magazines from him and loaded her M16.
“You’re a better shot than that but just in case I have up the same shield I used to keep Kerrik from destroying my brain,” Iain said quietly. Sofia’s hand darted up and smacked into something invisible in front of the visor covering his face. “See?”
She nodded and smiled. “I am willing to shoot you, my Iain.” Her tail flicked lazily. “I will not go easy on you. This will be an interesting test, no?”
“No. It’s gonna suck for me.” Iain turned and jogged to the spot that Drust had started from. He lifted the face shield and looked around. “Arianrhod, will you referee?”
“I would be proud too, clan leader,” she called as she ran for the place Sofia had originally occupied.
Iain dropped the transparent visor into place. “Helmet online.” He watched the display clear slightly as the electronics activated and a static charge blew off the dirt that had gotten on the visor when Drust had dropped it on the ground. It would do a lot of other things, including night vision if required, but he didn’t need any of them as the directional microphones built into the sides of the helmet picked up Arianrhod’s call. “Clan leader, are you ready?”
Iain nodded. “I am,” he replied without using the integral speaker to amplify his voice.
Arianrhod turned to Sofia. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” she said as she held the rifle casually across her body.
The goblin looked from one to the other, raised her hand and let it drop. “Begin!”
On Iain’s original world the record for the hundred meter dash was held by a Jamaican by the name of Ursain Bolt. He’d set the record by running it in 9.58 seconds. Thanks to Iain’s upgrades, he was faster than most humans, but he still took 10.5 seconds to cross that distance when he wasn’t under fire or wearing another fifteen kilograms of armor. Today both factors slowed him down, especially since Sofia pounded him with three round bursts in the center of his torso, breaking his momentum and making it harder to breathe as the alloy plate pummeled him while he tried to run. She fired smoothly and quickly, her hands blurring as she swapped full magazines for empty, charged the weapon and resumed firing in an evolution she’d practiced with the heavier Grey assault rifles for years during training and while killing and capturing feral pokegirls on their property.
But, as expected, Iain’s armor held and he finally jogged up to her, smacked the rifle out of position with his arm since he knew taking hold of the barrel would sear him to the bone after all of the rounds Sofia had put through it, grabbed her by the arms and executed a takedown that slammed her to the ground with him on top of her to use his weight to stun her, the rifle skidding away as she fell.
OK, it would have stunned her if she were human. Instead she jerked her arms free, rolled to trap him under her and pulled his helmet off before rubbing her cheeks against his to scent mark him. “Very well done,” she murmured in Spanish. Iain merely gasped in pain as her weight on his torso drove the alloy plate she’d been shooting into the fresh bruises behind it. Her eyes went wide and she immediately slid off of him. “I am sorry.”
“Don’t be. If it didn’t hurt I’d probably be fucking you right now in front of the goblins,” he murmured.
Sofia turned bright red. “You are unhurt,” she said loudly as she got to her feet. She gave him a look he knew well. You are right and I am glad we are not, not in front of others. But perhaps later?
Definitely, he sent to her as he held up his hands to her. “Help?” She grabbed his hands and jerked him to his feet. He suppressed his groan as he turned to the assembled goblins and raised his voice. “I have some pretty nasty bruises, but that’s it, which is why you will wear this armor when we’re training and when we’re fighting. Sidhe arrows would just bounce off of something like this and it might even turn one of your spears.” He began taking the armor off. “I’ll give this to Arianrhod so she can let you see that while it got torn up on the outside and needs repaired or replaced, no bullets got to me on the inside, which is something that one day might save your life. Are there any questions?”
A female voice called from the group of goblins. “Lord, what will happen to Drust?”
“I think that putting ninety bullets into him and then cracking his skull is sufficient to remind even Drust that I am the Grey and he is not,” Iain replied. “Killing him at this point would be counterproductive to the lessons I want all of you to learn.”
Arianrhod cocked her head. “What are those lessons?” Her voice was loud enough to carry to the assembled goblins and Iain knew she was asking the question for all of them.
“There are a bunch of rules you have to learn about living as clan instead of tribe,” Iain replied. “But there are three rules you need to take to heart right now. First, never get involved in a land war in Asia. Second, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Third, and as vitally important as the first two is that if I give one of you a direct order you’d better get your ass in gear and do what I tell you. Drust is a living example of what happens when you don’t. If it isn’t an emergency you can ask why I’m telling you to do something, but you’d better be preparing to do it while asking the question. I don’t give direct orders unless it’s important. Most of the time I ask people to do things, which is entirely different.” He looked over where April was loading Drust into a healing bed. “As for what happens to Drust now, I’m done with his correction and I won’t hold today against him. As for the breeding potential he showed today, that’s up to the ladies he tries to catch and breed to decide about.” Several goblin women laughed, but it was a cold, cutting laugh that made Iain grin. “Yeah, I’d probably smack him in the nuts too.” He shrugged. “But I haven’t gelded him so he still has nuts to smack.” This time the laughter was widespread. “Are there any other questions?”
“Why was Sofia rubbing her face against yours,” another goblin woman asked.
Sofia flushed again but her voice was strong and confident. “I was letting my male know that I recognized his superior breeding value.”
“Will he breed you,” a female goblin called curiously.
Sofia smiled, her ears up. “I carry his kits now. What does that tell you?” She glanced at Iain, her eyes filled with a message as old as the human race. “I was telling him that I will carry more kits for him after these are born.”
Arianrhod looked at him. “Will you be joining us during our breeding cycles?”
“I think,” Iain said carefully, “that before we even consider me trying to compete with goblin males for goblin females that we correct the infertility issue that is currently plaguing your people.”
She smiled broadly. “Now you sound like a Sidhe again.”
“I am trying not to give offense, Arianrhod, and I’m trying to do it without lying to you. I haven’t considered attending a goblin breeding and I’m not sure how I’d fare in one of them competing against your people. More importantly, I’m not big into holding an unwilling woman down and slamming my dick into her. And finally, I’m not into indiscriminately sharing my seed. So while not trying to give offense, I’m not sure if I am interested in trying to join you. But since your people are currently infertile, it’s not an issue. I wouldn’t be competing with goblin males for breeding rights, I’d be competing with goblin males to get laid and I get plenty of that right now without having to fight for it. We’ve made the necessary arrangements for you and the other goblins to be sequestered during your breeding periods to make sure we minimize the trouble it could cause within the clan and Theodora will be using remotes to evacuate the critically injured to try and keep the death count as low as possible. I wouldn’t want clan killing clan in the best of times and I certainly don’t want goblins killing each other while you can’t produce children with which to make up the loss.”
“Very few fatalities happen during our heats,” Arianrhod said. “But your reasons all have merit. When we are fertile you will be asked that question again.”
“You want his child,” Sofia said.
“I was born right before we were struck barren,” Arianrhod said. “Therefore I have never been successfully bred. I would proudly grow the seed of a dragon in my womb if it caught. And I am not the only goblin who would. In his human form he is not imposing and he is certainly not the strongest but every time he faces one of my people he is victorious. The fact that he arranges the conditions to favor him and assure his victory is a sign of how cunning he is and goblin women value that over physical prowess. It is likely that he will have few fights and that we, the goblin women, will defend him from less cunning but stronger males and the weaker females while taking turns milking him of his seed until he has no more.”
Sofia’s ears flicked. “But we thought it was the strongest breeds the strongest when you’re in heat.”
Arianrhod chuckled. “You were told that by Ygerna, weren’t you?” She continued without waiting for a reply. “The Sidhe ever consider us to be brutish beasts who wallow in depravity, which amuses us as they are truly depraved in how they treat each other. I am the strongest among the goblin women and I will give that strength to my children no matter which male’s seed I catch with. All goblin women are strong and will bear strong children. We prize in our males what we cannot always give our children to make them more powerful and if my children are more cunning than I am it is to their benefit. That is why when there is a male wizard among the goblins he will always sire many children even if he is not physically as powerful as some of the warriors. Power is far more than just being strong and we, the women, know that. So we choose who we breed with and because of that a weaker goblin woman may have to satisfy her lusts with a weaker male because she has no choice as the stronger women refuse to share the males they have chosen with her. It is only when we are finished with our males may the weaker women breed with them.” She glanced over towards April. “That is why Drust hoped to improve his breeding status by challenging our ruler. He has never been among our first choices as a breeding male.” She looked at Iain. “And it is why I will not forget to ask you to join us when we are finally fertile again no matter how cunningly you try to make me forget to do so.”
Iain just shook his head. “You know, sometimes it’s best to just let tomorrow’s hassles hassle tomorrow and this sounds like a perfect situation for that rule.”
Arianrhod nodded. “I agree. But by your own admission we will be fertile again one day and by then you should know us better and understand that we do not want to have stronger children, we need to have stronger children. Then you must give us what we need for we are clan.”
Iain rubbed his forehead. “Bloody fucking hell. Now you sound like you’re Sidhe.”
She grinned. “I am fey as are we all and all fey can be tricksy.”
Iain shook his head again. “Well, since I’m cunning and there’s no way I can win this argument, I’m just going to take my toys and go home.” Heather appeared not far from him as Dianthus resumed her place nearby. “And now that I’ve got my guard, I will withdraw with all of the dignity that I have remaining.” And saying that, he left.
Arianrhod looked at Sofia. “It is a good that my twee can explain what his sayings truly mean or else I would not understand half of his words.”
“I have the same problem,” the Ria admitted. “You do realize that he will now try to avoid you before your heats start and part of his harem will abet him in this.”
“I do and I am glad for it. A good hunt must always be difficult or it isn’t any fun,” Arianrhod said with a grin. “And the more he eludes me, the more cunning he is and the more powerful our children will be.”
“It could take years to finally catch him.”
Arianrhod chuckled. “I am goblin and I am immortal. It will take as long as it takes but I will be victorious in the end, for like all males he will eventually think I have lost interest and grow careless. I just must make sure that when I do finally catch him he has no way to tell me no.”
“Then you will have to convince Iain that he wants to do this or you will never be successful. Iain is not forced.” She looked around. “Now, back to the matter at hand. Drust is gone with April and you and the other goblins need to learn how to wear your armor and what your helmets can do for you. Assemble the goblins over there and we’ll get started.”
The noise coming from Golden Cloud was a quiet hum that Iain suspected meant she was trying to purr as he slid the brush down her back. Silver and Ryan exchanged a grin from where they stood sentry as he continued brushing the unicorn.
“My goddess wishes to speak with you later,” Golden Cloud said as she stretched out her neck for another nut bar treat. “She would like an appointment.”
“She has a twee,” Iain pointed out. “She could just call me for one instead of sending you as her messenger.”
“I volunteered to undertake this task for her,” Golden Cloud twisted her head to look at him as her ears flattened for a heartbeat. “It is an honor and a pleasure to serve my goddess. Is there a message you wish me to convey back to her?”
He shrugged. “I’m available tomorrow morning after breakfast for an hour. That would be from 0600 until 0700 by the way I reckon time. She’s welcome to visit me then.”
“I will tell her.” Her ears flicked. “And you do not have to worry, stallion, for I warned her.”
Iain frowned. “What did you warn a goddess about involving me that she wouldn’t take as some kind of a challenge?”
“I warned her not to say please to you too many times lest you fuck her.”
Silver burst out laughing. Iain looked at her and she grinned. “Yes, really,” she said while still laughing.
Iain shook his head and turned back to Golden Cloud. “Thank you for advising her so well but I really hope she doesn’t take that as a challenge of some sort.”
Ryan snickered at that but Golden Cloud nodded. “You are very welcome, stallion.” She retrieved another treat. “Why are the goblins here?”
“They’ve joined the clan.”
“I am uncertain that goblins will make trustworthy allies. They hunger for the flesh of both the herd and the clan.”
“These are fey goblins and I suspect they’re a lot smarter than the ones you’re used to dealing with. In any case, they are clan and they will be trusted as much as I trust the unicorns until they betray that trust. We’ve got plenty of things for them to eat and if they really want to they can eat ferals that they kill. I think we’ll discover that the reputed savage hunger of goblins is because they don’t get enough to eat and we have more resources than they can consume even if there were a whole bunch more of them.”
An ear focused on him as she chewed. “You do not trust the unicorns very far or they would be outer clan instead of satellite. Therefore, if you trust the goblins as much as you trust the unicorns then you do not trust them very far indeed.” Iain chuckled and she laughed softly. “You guard your words well and therefore I must listen well.”
“You listened excellently that time.”
“Thank you, my stallion.” She went back to humming while he brushed her. “How fares your learning to become a stallion in truth?” With his perception he could see Ryan and Silver turn curious eyes on him. They were all in the barn and there wasn’t a whole lot for guards to do anyways since the barn lay not far from the Sabine house and outside Theodora had laid kilometer after kilometer of sensors and drones with her usual diligence. Iain suspected they were here and playing guard because they were hoping to be groomed after Golden Cloud’s grooming was done.
“I’m not certain how to quantify my progress.”
“Your words do not make sense. There is progress?”
“I believe there is. I’ve become an equine like creature, but it’s not a unicorn and it’s not a horse. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels fairly natural.”
“Is it a real creature?”
“While I’m uncertain if it exists elsewhere in the multiverse, it is real when I’m in its form,” Iain noted amusedly.
Golden Cloud laughed again. “An excellent point. But are there others of its ilk that you know of?”
“I’ve never heard of them and none of my records document their existence.” It was unusual, considering the breadth of Kerrik’s travels but then upon reflection Iain had decided that his teacher, even with his lifespan, could only have visited just a tiny fraction of the multiverse and there would be lots of things he’d never encountered. It was a sobering thought and yet one that fired Iain’s wanderlust to see more.
“Does it move naturally? Can it run, jump and gambol?”
“Gamboling is running and jumping. I haven’t tried any real activities with it since it’s not what I’m trying to achieve.”
“Could I,” Golden Cloud looked past him to his guards and must have recognized their curiosity. “Could we see it?”
Iain had hoped they’d have forgotten about it entirely. “I don’t really see where it’s that important,” he said.
“Please show us,” Golden Cloud asked. “I would like to see your progress.”
“So would I,” Ryan said softly.
“Me too,” Silver stated firmly.
Iain sighed. “I’ll think about it while I’m finishing up Golden Cloud’s grooming.”
When he’d finished grooming Golden Cloud and put all of her tools away in the kit box with her name on it so they didn’t accidentally get used on anyone else, he stretched slowly. “Have you decided that you will let us see your equine form,” Golden Cloud asked eagerly as he finished his stretch.
“It’s nothing more than an intermediate stage in my practice. Is this really that important?”
“No,” Ryan said, “but we are curious, Iain.” She smiled coquettishly. “Please, my stallion?”
“He is my stallion,” Golden Cloud stated instantly as her ears went flat. “You are not herd even if you are clan.”
“Not to mention I am not interested in being with other members of the herd,” Iain reminded her loudly before a fight could break out. He looked at Ryan. “Please stop teasing Golden Cloud.” She doesn’t get teasing and she isn’t likely to learn to understand it.
“I’m sorry if my teasing offended you, Golden Cloud,” Ryan said immediately. She glanced at Iain. Teasing is part of being harem.
It is, Iain replied. She isn’t harem and it’s unlikely she will become harem. I agreed to be her stallion for a foal. In contrast, I will always be your male and you already carry the first of our children.
Ryan grinned suddenly. Ganieda is right when she says you tell us the nicest things. Thank you for reminding me of what we have. “I would still like to see what you look like, Iain.”
Iain looked at Silver, who smiled. “I admit I am curious now what an equine like creature looks like. Is it a centaur like we are?”
“No.” Iain shrugged abruptly. “Whatever, ladies.” He moved to the center of the stable where he groomed his equine pokegirls while Golden Cloud grabbed another treat and backed up to swing around and watch. An instant later he’d been replaced by a shape that was roughly equine. It stood nearly two meters at the shoulder, putting him a good thirty centimeters taller than Golden Cloud, and was bulky with muscle. Its skin was covered with the same black and silver scales as his dragon form. The head was roughly horse shaped and he had a horn, but the ears were larger than a horse’s and more triangular in shape while his amber eyes were completely draconic. His tail was reptilian and it rippled slowly as he watched them warily. He didn’t have hooves, instead his muscular legs ended in paws similar to those of a jaguar and his body was more feline or dragon in form than equine. The horn was black and thicker in cross section than Golden Cloud’s rapier horn, but it too was straight and ended in a wicked point. “Well, ladies?”
“That’s not very equine,” Silver said doubtfully.
“I believe I never claimed that it is,” Iain turned his head to regard Golden Cloud. “Is this progress?”
Her head was tilted curiously as she looked him over. “You remind me of the first stallion. You are bigger than he was, but overall I would say that you were from the herd of the first stallion.”
“What is the first stallion?”
“When I was born there was the first stallion who was the only stallion in the herd. The others called him that and so I did as well. He was unlike the rest of the herd but they accepted him and he bred all of the original mares. I hoped that he would one day choose me to bear his foal but he disappeared and I had to breed with his sons instead, all of whom were as the rest of the herd was and regular stallions.”
Allison, April and Ninhursag entered the stable. “I can see why Silver called us,” Ninhursag said. “Iain, this is new.”
“Everything I do is new to someone,” Iain replied. He looked at Golden Cloud. “You said the first stallion disappeared. He didn’t die?”
“I don’t know. I do know that he vanished one day and that when I received the horns and spirits of the dead that he was not among them. The herd queen at the time never mentioned him after he left. No one discussed him after he left.” She shrugged. “I haven’t thought of him since then until I saw you today and remembered.” She tossed her head. “You will breed me as you are now. You will be my first stallion.”
“Great, I feel like someone who just got told a woman would have sex with him because he looked like a movie star.” Iain resumed his human form. “I’ll still work on attaining a full unicorn form, but I did agree to be your stallion and if that’s what you want me to look like then whatever.” He looked at Ninhursag. “Theodora has the medical test data on that form but I considered it a setback and haven’t done any testing with it.”
“The first stallion was strong, agile and quick,” Golden Cloud volunteered. “Our stallion should be that way too. He also had the teeth of a meat eater and hunted deer regularly. His favored mares got to share his meals with him.”
“Well,” April asked him curiously.
“My teeth are the ones I have when I’m in my dragon form, although they’re smaller and I have fewer of them since the dimensions of my mouth are far different.”
The Duelist smiled winsomely at him. “Do you think you’re strong, agile and quick?”
“There is no good answer to that for you,” Iain chuckled. “If I say no, you’ll want to run me through some heinous testing to see where my limits lie and then force me to get better and if I say yes you’ll just want to run me through some heinous training to see exactly where my limits lie to see if I’m telling the truth and then you’ll work to force me to improve.”
April laughed. “You’re no fun. You’re right, but still you could pretend you didn’t know what was coming.”
He sighed. “When?”
She tucked her arm through his. “What are you doing now?”
“You’d reschedule training for little old me? That’s not necessary. I can wait my turn.”
“I already did reschedule training and it’s now your turn.”
“Yay me. What’s the betting like?”
She grinned. “Active.”
“I will watch this,” Golden Cloud announced. “I have wanted to see how the clan wages war.”
April glanced at Iain and back to Golden Cloud. “You can see how we fight, but a single battle isn’t usually a war. Wars require strategy and planning and you haven’t shown any interest in that.”
“I want to see my stallion fight.”
“That we can accommodate you with,” April reassured her. “Now come with us.”
Iain stepped out of the outdoor shower and toweled off. “You have company,” Pandora noted from where she stood guard.
Iain turned and smiled at Seraphina. “Morning, little one.”
She smiled back at him. “Hi, Daddy. You need to put on clothes.”
Iain was reaching for the clothes he’d laid out. “I just got done running the obstacle course in my equine form for April, Golden Cloud and everyone else to laugh at, so I needed to clean up. What is it?”
“Mother is coming and she’s bringing the orphans with her. You should meet them under your tree.”
Iain’s smile vanished. “Give me a second.” He finished dressing and took Seraphina’s hand. “Let’s go.”
She led him towards the Omega tree, Pandora falling in behind them as they left the area where the showers and other outdoor cleaning equipment were housed. “Thank you for taking them in, Daddy. I know you didn’t have to.”
“No, I didn’t but it makes your mother happy and I’ll do a lot to keep my ladies happy.”
Seraphina giggled. “Don’t tell Mommy I said this but the women from your world are stupid to not have grabbed you and held on tightly so you couldn’t escape them.”
Pandora chuckled. “She’s right, but we are very happy that they didn’t.”
Seraphina frowned. “We are?”
“If they had, the happiness of his woman there would have been important to him and that means a lot of us wouldn’t be here since she probably wouldn’t have wanted to share him.”
Seraphina nodded gravely. “You are right, Pandora. I am glad they are stupid because I might not have my daddy.”
Iain snatched her up in his arms. “Just remember that you do have me, little one.”
She giggled and kissed him. “Yes! You’re the best daddy ever!”
“I don’t know about that,” Iain said to her as he carried her with him, “but I’m pretty sure I’m the best daddy you have.”
“You are.” She grinned at him before looking back at Pandora. “Right?”
The Archangel gave her an amused smile. “Already you’re a meddling Megami-Sama, aren’t you?”
“I want to be very good at it,” Seraphina replied, her face turning completely serious. “People will need my help when I’m older.”
“Trust me,” Pandora said, “you’re already good at it.”
“I also want to be like you, Pandora. I will need to be strong sometimes and you’re good at that. Mercy is for the good and death for the evil.”
Pandora glanced at Iain. “She’s good. That’s exactly what a someone like me would want to hear.” She looked around quickly and kissed Seraphina on the cheek. “And it’s even better because I know you’re telling me the truth.”
“I have no reason to lie to you, Pandora.”
“What if you did,” Pandora asked her curiously.
“If I had a reason to lie to you then I would lie to you without hesitating.”
Pandora blinked. “You don’t lie, Seraphina.”
Seraphina gave her a contrite look. “OK.”
Pandora peered suspiciously at Iain. “That sounds like you.”
“No it doesn’t. My voice is deeper than that and I wouldn’t have agreed with you.” Seraphina giggled and Iain gave her a stern look. “Stop teasing Pandora.”
“I will, Daddy.” She gave Pandora a bright smile. “I hope I didn’t make you unhappy with me.”
Pandora shook her head. “No, young lady, but sometimes you say the strangest things and they make me uncomfortable.”
“And here we are,” Iain said. He put Seraphina down as looked around. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Mother was waiting for us to arrive,” Seraphina told him. “I’ve told her that we’re here.”
Iain stretched quickly and glanced back at Pandora. “Try not to scare the kids.”
She snorted. “I think since this is their first time meeting you they’ll never look past you and see me.”
Iain started to say something but stopped when Seraphina took his hand. “Be nice, Daddy.”
He chuckled. “Now she sounds like you.” Pandora snickered softly behind him.
An instant later Lucifer appeared with three children. She was holding the hands of two strange girls with pain filled bright green eyes and long red-orange hair while Olivia held the other hand of one of the strangers. Olivia let go the girl’s hand and ran to Iain, taking his free hand. “This is my daddy,” she called to the newcomers. “You’re so lucky that he’s going to be your daddy too.”
Iain squeezed Olivia’s hand. “I don’t think the reasons why they have to come here are lucky at all. I’ll be glad to accept them into my life but I wish as much as they do that their mother was still the one who would be taking care of them.” He went down on his knees so he wouldn’t tower over them. “Hello, my name is Iain. I cannot do anything about the loss that you have suffered but I can, if you will let me, make you a part of my life and try to make sure you don’t lose anyone else as long as I can.”
The girl holding Lucifer’s left hand looked into his eyes. “What if we do not want to let you be our daddy?”
“Then Lucifer will take you someplace else and we will find a good family to place you and your sister with,” Iain said gently. “I will not force you to stay here. However, if you do decide to stay then I will not later let you leave. Once we accept you into our lives and hearts this will become your home until you outgrow it.”
“I’m Hailey,” the one on Lucifer’s right announced. “Grownups lie to us. Will you lie to us too?”
Iain glanced at Lucifer, who looked mystified. “Who lied to you and how?”
“A lot of people lied to us and told us that everything would be all right,” Hailey said. “If it was all right, Mother would not be dead, so it’s a lie. Will you lie to us?”
“I will try not to,” Iain said slowly. “I may, and if I do I will apologize when you catch me, but I try very hard not to lie to my family. Are you old enough to be able to tell when someone is lying to you?”
Hailey shook her head. “I can’t do that yet. I want to learn though. Miriam can.”
Iain looked at the other redhead. “Are you Miriam?” She nodded reluctantly. “Was I lying to Hailey?” She shook her head. “Did I lie to you when I answered your question?”
He nodded. “And I will continue not to lie to you. In that spirit, what you ladies need to know is that I will do my best to be the daddy you need and the father that you want while trying not to forget that you will always love and miss Karen some no matter how much love you get here and no matter how much you might love the people here.”
Miriam frowned. “Is there a difference between the daddy we need and the father that we want?”
Iain smiled. “Sometimes there’s a big difference. The daddy that you need might have to force you to go to class and study even when you would prefer to be playing. The father that you want would make time to play with you when you do get some time to play and he would help you with homework if you needed it and find someone else to help you with something if he didn’t know how to do it.”
Hailey smiled. “The father that I want would be able to do everything.”
Seraphina grinned. “Daddy tries really hard to do that but he’s got a lot of things he has to study too, even when he doesn’t want to, so it’s hard for him to be able to do everything.”
Hailey looked surprised. “You still have to study?”
“I do. Sometimes it’s not a lot of fun either and I’d rather be playing but sometimes you can do the things you want to and other times you have to do the things that are necessary. But here there are a lot of other children to play with and women willing to help mother you and so hopefully you won’t miss me or anyone specific as much as you might when we can’t be available.”
“What is going to happen to Aunt Teresa,” Miriam asked suddenly.
Iain had wondered if this was going to come up. “Do you know what she did?”
“She killed Mommy.”
He nodded. “Yes, she did.”
“Mommy and Aunt Teresa argued a lot,” Hailey volunteered. “She wanted Mommy to do something that Mommy didn’t want to do. Mommy told her to leave and never come back.”
“Did she want to kill Mommy,” Miriam asked.
Iain considered the question for a few seconds. “I don’t think that Teresa wanted to kill your mother, but she felt that she had to kill your mother when your mother found her doing something bad to try and keep from being found out. What is important to me is that she was doing something bad, your mother caught her and she did something really bad in order to try to get out of it. Because of this, she will have to die, not only because of what she did, but so that she can never do anything bad to anyone else again.”
“Are you going to kill her,” Miriam asked.
“I hadn’t planned to. Do you want me to?”
Miriam shook her head. “I don’t want her to hurt anyone else but I don’t want you to hurt her.”
“Does that mean you’re staying?”
Miriam and Hailey exchanged a look and Miriam stepped forward, stopping in front of him. She held out her arms. “Hug me.” Iain wrapped her up in his arms and she sighed and went limp against him. “You smell good. Can we call you Daddy?”
“Our Mommy is dead. Do we have to call Lucifer Mommy?”
“You do not if you do not want to. You can call her Lucifer but no matter what you call her, she will be your primary mother.”
“What is a primary mother?”
“All of the women in the harem and I take turns with the children. They are all now or will eventually be mothers and to the children they gave birth to or, as in your case and Lucifer, adopted, those are their primary mothers.”
“So we have more than one mother?”
“Do we have more than one daddy or father?”
“Not at this time. What the future might hold is unclear, even with Celestial pokegirls and their ability to see the future.” Iain looked at Hailey. “So, can I hug you too?” She almost threw herself at him and he gathered her up along with her sister.
He held them until Lucifer touched him on the shoulder. “I should get them set up in the girl’s bedroom,” she said quietly.
Iain relaxed his grip. “Girls, Lucifer is going to show you to the bedroom you’ll be sharing with Olivia and Seraphina. You’ll be sleeping there sometimes and other times you’ll sleep with me and Lucifer and probably them too, so I want you to work hard to get along with them. If they’re mean to you, I want to know about it as soon as possible though.”
Seraphina didn’t quite glare at him. “We wouldn’t be mean to our new sisters. They’re the next oldest after us and they have the same responsibilities we do to help our little sisters grow up. We have the same responsibility to our little brothers too, if we ever get any.”
Olivia tugged Hailey and Miriam away from Iain. “Let’s go see the room we’ll share. It’s going to be so nice having you in it. Maybe we can all sleep together!”
It might interest you to know, Theodora said to him through his twee, that in my spare time I have been redesigning the Sabine house to reflect all of the children when they are old enough to want bedrooms of their own.
Is it the size of Himeji Castle yet?
With the members of the outer harem becoming inner harem and now with them starting to show signs of wanting children of their own, it might well surpass that.
Yay. Well, it is what it is.
“I am glad you decided to stay,” Iain said to Hailey and Miriam before Olivia could pull them completely away. “I think you’ll like it here.”
Miriam pulled her hand free from Olivia’s. “Daddy, will you tell me when Aunt Teresa has been put to death?”
“Thank you, Daddy.” She took Seraphina’s hand. “Let’s go.”
“Thank you for this, Iain,” Lucifer said quietly. She led the children towards the house as Iain got to his feet.
He looked at Pandora. “Now what?”
“You did a nice thing in taking those two in,” she said quietly.
“In the scheme of things, what’s another two children?”
“I believe it’s another two expensive weddings, from what I’ve been reading about our responsibilities in various books on American and Texas culture.”
Iain grinned. “We’ll hold the wedding’s here or at another of our properties, Theodora can make the dresses and such and we’ll figure out the rest as we go. That’ll keep costs down.”
Pandora smiled. “We don’t have a priest.”
“As the clan leader I can perform marriages if I decide I can. More importantly we don’t need a priest. We’ve got a goddess living on our property. I’m sure that she can perform marriages and who wouldn’t want the memory of being married to your partner by an actual goddess instead of some intermediary?”
Pandora gaped at him for a second. “You’re serious.”
“I am. Otherwise one of us will have to get ordained. I’m supposed to meet with her in the morning before my meeting with Lucy and Danielle. Golden Cloud didn’t tell me what the subject was, but I suspect her goddess might not have told her.” He shrugged. “I’ll try to remember to bring it up with her at the meeting. The worst she can do is say no and vaporize me.”
“Are you trying to see if pokegirls can gave heart attacks or if I can turn back into a Fallen Angel?”
“I am not. I’m dealing with reality and if that frightens you, try to guess how much it frightens me. I’d be the one who was vaporized. The fact that I’d have fewer meetings after that doesn’t really make up for being dead.”
She scowled. “You mean undead.”
“I wasn’t going to mention that since I know how much thinking about me becoming a lich upsets you. Frankly, it doesn’t give me pleasant dreams at night either.”
“Does anything give you those?”
He shrugged. “I’m working on it. Now I was supposed to have training but I just got done with a whole bunch of it. Still, I suspect that if I ask April she’ll tell me that it’s time for my training so I think I’m going to flee to my lab. Please escort me to the door.”
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice
Heather - Elfqueen
Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Melanie – Iron Chef
Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female
74 male Goblins
89 female Goblins
Queendom / Outer Harem
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria - Slutton
Rhea Silvia - Chimera
Geraldine - Human
Mother s & Children