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Loose Threads

Sixty One


            Iain looked around the room. Dominique, Ganieda, Kasumi, Ygerna and Rosemary were seated along one side of a table. On the other side of the table was a single chair. “Should I get a solicitor?”

            Rosemary grinned at him. “I’ll bet you weren’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.”

            “I might like them better than what I see,” Iain said amusedly as he pulled out the chair and sat down in it. “I’m not sleeping with anyone in the Spanish Inquisition.”

            Ygerna chuckled. “They were an inept lot and weren’t what the human historians painted them to be.”

            “Let’s not get off topic,” Dominique said. “Iain, when did you learn to open portals?”

            Iain looked up. “Theodora, you can remember my portal experiments now.”

            Theodora appeared. “Thank you. Dominique, he didn’t do anything exceedingly careless.”

            Kasumi smiled. “Whose definition are you using?”

            “I am using Dominique’s definition,” Theodora said.

            “I started opening portals about a month and a half ago,” Iain leaned back in his chair. “Before I was compelled to, I had not gone through one, although I did stick some staffs with video equipment on them through the portals and reviewed the video when I pulled them back. I only used coordinates that I was familiar with from our travels, Theodora was on hand at all times with weapons and forcefields ready and I had my gear on when I did so.”

            “Are you using my spell,” Dominique asked.

            “I can’t cast anything that powerful using formal magic. I used my magic and I think I used a method functionally similar to the one that Magdalene used when she demonstrated portals to you before helping you with the spell we got from Micah.” He raised a hand. “I had only done some theoretical considerations on moving already established portals and my twee and I have been busy cudgeling my memory to see if I can remember which technique I used for that. I may have to ask Caintigern if she can unlock it and if she will. From what little she said about it in my lessons, I only used magic I already knew to in order to travel to the forest. The compulsion didn’t add anything to my abilities. It turns out that there’s no way to know who brought the compulsion from there, by the way. If it activated in someone who couldn’t dimensionally travel, it would make them seek out someone who they believed could and it would transfer to them. So it was going to make its way to either me or Dominique eventually, or possibly even Kerrik during one of his visits.”

            Dominique’s brow furrowed. “That is an extraordinarily complex spell. I’d have a tough time putting something like that together.”

            “Any formal mage would,” Iain replied.

            “What about you?”

            He shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about how something like that might work, but as you said it’s pretty complex. I don’t think I could put that sort of thing together for at least a couple more years. It had to attach itself to a person, determine that they couldn’t do what it wanted and then use what that person knew to try and attach to the person who could. Otherwise it’s attaching would be completely random and it would likely never find the right kind of person. It makes sense that it would pass to me before Dominique because I sleep with everyone in the harem fairly regularly and she has preferred partners, just like most of you do.”

            Rosemary leaned forward slightly. “Can you open portals to specific places or do they have random exit points?”

            Kasumi smiled. “An excellent question, my sister.”

            “Thank you.”

            Iain nodded. “It is an excellent question. I can do both. With Theodora’s help I have the coordinates to all the places Dominique has taken us and I’ve opened gates to several of them. I used the staff technique to look through since all of the ones she’s done for us that don’t go to this world come out in space and I haven’t successfully learned how to breathe vacuum yet. I have also opened random gates and those haven’t been quite so successful. In some cases, the exit looked normal but when I stuck a staff and camera through I pulled it back to discover that the end and the equipment were gone. Not surprisingly, considering the composition and density of the universe, most of them opened up into what seemed to be deep space.” He leaned back in his chair. “But I can’t do any of this using formal magic.”

            “Yet,” Ygerna said.

            “True. I hope that someday I will be able to.” He smiled at them. “Oh, I decided to take Mielikki up on her offer and train as her priest. She was right when she pointed out that a smart truewizard studies every magical style he comes across to improve the magic he can use.” He smiled when Dominique scowled. “Yes, I’m sure she has an ulterior motive she’s not telling us about. Everyone does and we all know it.”

            Kasumi chuckled. “Anyone who says they don’t have an ulterior motive is lying. Do you know what her motive is?”

            “It’s Iain,” Ganieda said. “I’d think that would be obvious.”

            “Yes,” Kasumi agreed, “but what does she want Iain for?”

            “There’s always sex,” Rosemary said. “So if we work with the idea that she wants Iain for sex we won’t be surprised when it turns out to be exactly that.”

            “Not every woman wants me for sex,” Iain said in an annoyed tone.

            Rosemary grinned at him. “Name one.”

            “Catherine McCoy.”

            Rosemary’s ears flicked. “I’ll grant you that one since she probably confuses you with her son. Name one more.”

            Iain rolled his eyes. “Lorena.”

            Ganieda grinned. “Wrong.”


            “She’s getting younger, Iain, and Aaron gets to fuck all of the Milktits and Hypatia. She’s wondering if that means they have an open marriage and you’re fit and she thinks you’re handsome. She may never act on it, but she does think about it.”

            Iain sighed. “Monica Chambers.”

            Ganieda laughed in his face. “Now you’re making the desperation move and besides, even you know she’d like to fuck you.”

            “Fucking telepaths,” Iain muttered. “Is that what Mielikki wants?”

            The Snugglebunny Splice grinned again. “I can’t read her mind but that is where I put my bet in the pool.”

            Iain growled softly in the back of his throat. “What does this interview have to do with my formal magic studies? You know where I am in my formal magic and all we’ve discussed is my truewizardry.”

            “There is a normal progression that students follow in formal magic,” Kasumi explained. “Up to this point you have been on that educational track, but with what you’ve shown with other magics that you command we’ve been considering focusing your studies differently.” She glanced at Ygerna sitting beside her. “And since Dominique knows a different style that she learned from the Order, Ygerna knows it and the Sidhe magic that it is based on, Ganieda studied at Vale and I know a third style from my time studying with Shikarou and the books Kerrik gave me and then teaching those styles to students, we’ve been considering rotating the work and having whoever isn’t teaching also being students when it’s a style we don’t know.”

            Iain frowned. “How is this going to mesh with the other training that all of us go through, not to mention the stuff I have with Kerrik and Caintigern?”

            “Kerrik’s and Caintigern’s lesson are regularly scheduled and we’ll work around them since you have to go. As for the regular training with the clan, we’re seeing if we can coordinate with April and Sofia to give us a regular time slot which will lessen the chances for a conflict.”

            “What if you opened it up,” Iain asked. “There are other spell using people here and some who don’t know magic but who, like the BLSF did, could benefit from learning some basic spells and a little healing magic. Make some of the time slots open for clan magic lessons like BLSF boot camp and April would be more inclined to work with us. I know she’d love to learn some spells and Sofia just wants to become as powerful as she can. She doesn’t care how. It would also let you incorporate some of the clan’s other spellcasters as occasional instructors and let them feel useful. People like Eve and Lucifer are highly skilled even if they’re not interested in being a full time teacher. And other people in the inner and outer clan all want to get stronger too. You might even let mages from the Sisterhood come as guest instructors to pass on what they’ve learned, if they’re willing.”

            Dominique slowly smiled. “That’s a grand idea.”

            Ygerna didn’t look pleased. “What if the goblins want lessons?”

            “Then we get to see if they can learn magic.”

            “They’re fey,” Kasumi said. “I thought all fey were magical.”

            “The Sidhe have a history of exterminating the wizards of the fey races they fought against,” Iain said. “Since magical affinity is genetic, it had the result of eventually making goblin mages, among others, very rare indeed.” He looked at Ygerna. “They get lessons too.”

            “You are the clan leader,” she said unhappily. “And I can understand intellectually that one day a goblin knowing magic might be to my benefit, but I cannot see how that could ever truly come to pass.”

            Iain frowned. “Theodora?”

            She appeared. “You called?”

            “When Danu and Danu give us the bones of the fey dead to clone, scan their DNA for magical affinity. We’ll discuss the other fey races as we get them, but I want you to take the goblin and Sidhe ones you find and keep that data so we can clone them for the clan. We could always use more wizards in our battle lines.”

            “Do you want me to keep them for us and not clone them for the goddesses?”

            “No, that might tip our hand early. But keep that information so we can use it to strengthen the clan later.”

            Ygerna was staring at him. “Iain?” She shook her head. “That’s just,” she paused and slowly smiled, “very much what a smart fey king or queen would do if they got the chance we’ll be getting. Well done.”

            “I have been paying attention to you,” Iain said with a smile. “And having other Sidhe males in the clan would give Gormlaith somebody to have a relationship with.”

            “She’d like that,” Ygerna murmured.

            “What other questions do you have for me,” Iain asked, “that pertain to my formal magic? And we all know that what I say doesn’t matter since you’ll test later. Can we just skip to the testing?”

            “I think that would be a good idea,” Kasumi interrupted Dominique as the Archmage started to speak.

            Dominique shot her an irritated look. “I was going to say the same thing.”

            “I’m glad we’re in agreement,” Rosemary said. “Does that mean we can end this? Nobody is learning magic and it’s not really that fun.”

            Dominique rubbed her eyes. “I guess she’s right.”

            “I know you don’t like not knowing something,” Iain said quietly. “You’re not alone in that and many people in this room are the same way you are, including me. But questioning me isn’t going to be effective and we’ll only find out how all of this is going to work by testing and you have been careful to say that you have nothing do with my other magic, which is what I’ve been mostly using. When things start to blend together that will change and you will be more involved, but right now Rosemary knows much more about formal magic than I do, probably because until recently I didn’t have an affinity for it. Now that I do, it’s going to be like the rest of my training. I will work harder than you are going to like to master this and if I don’t get results as quickly as I want,” he shrugged. “I’ll be annoyed for a while. In the meantime, when you see me doing something magical and I tell you that it’s not formal magic, you’ll be annoyed for a while and then, maybe, we can try to see if I can learn to do it formally. While I need to learn everything about formal magic, I am willing to skip around and try things that others might say I shouldn’t be ready to try if you are willing to teach me what I need to do and then go back to wherever I’m supposed to normally be afterwards.”

            “That’s a bad idea,” Ganieda said. “There’s a progression for a reason.”

            “Iain isn’t a normal student,” Dominique pointed out. “And he will only try advanced things under close supervision.” She looked into his eyes. “Right?”

            “Promise,” Iain said. “I don’t want to turn myself into origami far more than anyone else doesn’t want me to turn myself into origami.”

            “I want a much more specific promise,” Ygerna said.

            “If one of you teaches me something advanced from formal magic and tells me it’s advanced formal magic when it is taught to me, I promise that I will not attempt to cast that advanced formal magic without supervision from one of my formal magic instructors until I am told by the magic instructor that taught me the magic that I have sufficiently mastered it to cast it without supervision.” He looked at Ygerna. “Is that better?”

            She smiled broadly at him. “Well said and yes.”

            “If I tell you that I don’t want you trying something I taught you unless I’m there to supervise,” Dominique said, “will you follow that even if someone else here says it’s all right for you to practice around them?”

            “I will refer you to the previous comment about not wanting to be turned into origami and I will do as you ask. I know that each of you has your own specialties and strengths so there are spells that each of you knows that nobody else here does. If you ask me not to practice unless you’re around for something that you taught me, I’ll do it.”

            Dominique smiled amusedly. “You will do this if I ask. Just for clarity, what if I order you not to?”

            “I’m not sure but since you wouldn’t be that rude, it doesn’t matter.”

            “That’s what I thought too,” Dominique said with a chuckle. “I guess you’re right and we’re done here.” She looked at the other women. “Right?”

            “Thank you for that promise,” Kasumi said. “What’s next in your day?”

            “I’m here at your command until fifteen hundred, then I’ve got training with April and that will take me to dinner. Then, since I picked tonight’s movie, I’ll be at the theatre.”

            Rosemary perked up. “What did you pick?”

            “The original version of The Quiet Man. It’s got John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in it.”

            “Will I like it?”

            Iain smiled. “I hope so. It’s a love story with a family feud and a really long fight scene at the end.”

            “That sounds good. I can’t wait to see it.”

            Iain chuckled. “Yes, yes you can, and you will.”

            Rosemary grinned as her ears pricked eagerly. “I will.”


            Zareen smiled at him as he finished dressing. “Go where?”

            Iain buckled his gun belt on and stretched muscles stiff from his training session with Siobhan. He had to wear her approved gi for training and when the class was over he tended to send it for cleaning while he took a quick shower to get rid of the sweat and other odors that might interest passing members of his harem before changing back into his regular clothes. “It’s off to Caintigern for more lessons.”

            The Nightmare shifted to her centaur form. “Fight better.”

            “Yeah, I’m improving.” He slid onto her back. “No broken bones this session. That seems to be becoming more usual than not, which I am grateful for.”

            Zareen chuckled and accelerated to a quick trot that she could keep up all day. Iain clamped down with his calves and automatically started posting to her trot to keep from being tossed around. “Pregnant make mean.”

            “You may be right but I still think she’s a Night Nurse variant and this is just the way she is.”

            “Just mean,” Zareen said firmly. “Mean you. She not mean children.”

            “I’m done speculating and, at least right now, so are you.”

            Zareen nodded and was silent until they were halfway to Caintigern’s cottage. Then she stopped in a copse of mixed pine and oak. “Off.”

            Iain slid off her back, his hand going to his pistol as he landed easily and widened his perception to its limits. “Problem?”

            “No.” She changed back to her bipedal form. “No see stallion. Want see.”

            “It’s not really a stallion,” Iain said.

            “Want see dragon horse.” She smiled winsomely at him. “Please?” She winked. “Not fuck please, just show please.”

            Iain rolled his eyes and changed to his equine form. “Here it is.”

            “Impressive male.” She ducked underneath him.

            Iain jerked. “Hey, watch that!” He groaned as his ears went flat. “Zareen,” he growled.

            She laughed and slipped onto his back. “You like,” she said seductively.

            “We talked about touching without permission.”

            She laughed again and wrapped her arms around his neck to rest against him. “Ryan crazy want fuck dragon horse.”

            He turned his head to look at her with one eye. “While I’m not disagreeing with you, why do you say that?”

            “Best fuck face male. More touch, more kiss, more fun.” She dropped to the ground. “Dragon horse no hands. No touch, no kiss, no hug. Just cock. No fun.” She changed to her centaur form and gave him a coquettish look. “Run with me?”

            Iain shook his entire body violently. “You’re faster than I am.”

            “Dragon horse look fast. Find out.” She reached over and scratched him behind an ear. “You are learning to use your magic to mimic our techniques. Why can’t you use your magic to mimic our enhancements?”

            His ears flicked. “Because I didn’t think about it before you just brought it up.” He chuckled. “It’s going to take me a while to figure out how to do that.”

            “Worth it. Zareen teach daughter sneak like Zareen. Teach Iain too. Not teach other.”

            “Now that’s a good reason to learn your techniques and enhancements.” He cocked his head. “If you outrun me or make me chase you, the others are likely to say you’re failing as my guard.”

            She nodded. “Stupid, but still say. Run with, not after.” She flicked her tail. “Run?”

            Iain bobbed his head up and down in an exaggerated nod. “Run.”


            Zareen watched him change back to his human form. “Tired?”

            He grinned. “Not in the slightest. You pushed me to go as fast as I can run, but it wasn’t long enough to tire me out.”

            She grinned back at him. “Find limits later.”

            “Sounds like a plan to me. Now go.”

            “Call want leave.” She vanished as Iain turned towards Caintigern’s house.

            Caintigern opened the door when he knocked. “You are very polite. That is good. Polite will take a drake a long way in the society of the People.”

            Iain entered at her gesture and she closed the door behind him. “And good afternoon to you as well. Did you want to go hunting dinosaurs today?”

            The dragoness smiled. “I would very much.”

            “Would you mind if I asked,” Iain paused. “How secure is this place from outside prying by powerful beings?”

            “Nothing and no one sees in here unless I wish it,” Caintigern said. “You want to ask my niece to hunt too?”

            “I do. It is polite.”

            “She frightens you.”

            “Like I said before, both of you frighten me and that’s because I’m not stupid.”

            “You are not,” Caintigern said with a smile. “None of the People are dumb, but you are the smartest drake I have encountered in a long time.”

            “I’m the only drake you’ve encountered in a long time.”

            She laughed. “A drake dumber than you might not have realized that. The drake who came to my woods was not as smart as you. I do not remember a drake as smart as you since the one who sired me left my life. He was the smartest drake I can remember.”

            “What happened to him?”

            “My mother, the Queen, killed him. He decided he wanted to breed with a member of a group she was at odds with. He knew too much about the Queen and he could not be allowed to pass that information on to her opponents. She asked him not to breed this female and he refused her request. She then asked him to swear to reveal nothing about her and he refused that as well. That was the last I saw of him.”

            “So the Queen had him executed because he was involved with a dragoness she didn’t like?”

            Caintigern’s face was grim. “She felt affection for him and allowed him to do as he wanted. Then he did what the Queen feared and shared his knowledge of her with his new mate, who tried to use it against the Queen. Then she had the group executed.”

            “You could call her your mother.”

            “I was raised to respect her as my Queen, not my mother. It is the way of the People.”

            “But then you killed her and took her place.”

            Caintigern nodded. “I did. It is also the way of the People. It was when I went against the way of the People that things went badly.”

            “What happened with your daughter wasn’t your fault. It was Blacktooth and her ambition. She might have attacked your Princess if she had won and defeated you.”

            “If I had kept my throne the Princess would not have died.”

            “That isn’t true and you know it,” Iain said. “She’d have had to try and kill you and you’d have killed her when she failed.” He frowned. “And I’d probably be dead.”

            “Why do you believe you would be dead if I had remained Queen?”

            “Nightraven trained Kerrik and Drake. Magdalene was Drake’s adopted daughter and Kerrik’s wife and she was initially trained by Drake. Without Nightraven none of those three would exist as they do and without Magdalene and Kerrik I would not be here and if I hadn’t been able to flee the world we came here from, I’d most likely be dead. If you’d kept your throne, Nightraven would not be living in exile. You’d probably be dead too.”

            Caintigern nodded. “I would have eventually had a Princess strong enough to kill me.”

            “Or you’d have let her win.”

            Caintigern looked outraged. “I could never do that!”

            “It’s likely that a lot of Queens let their Princess win and kill them. Each Queen was far older than the Princess she fought and creativity and imagination mean a lot more than brute power to us when we fight, although brute power does have its place in our combats. Any Princess would have been at a severe disadvantage in such a fight due to her age and inexperience at combat since she’d have to be tutored. Either that or she ambushed her Queen and murdered her quickly.”

            “That is not the way of the People.” Caintigern didn’t look happy. “And no Queen is supposed to just let her Princess win.”

            “You thought about doing just that, didn’t you,” Iain asked sagely. He raised a hand when she started to speak. “Never mind, I withdraw the question. It’s none of my business.”

            “It is not.”

            “So I thought I’d go get your niece first and then come back and get you.”

            She frowned and then nodded. “You seek to practice diplomacy between us. Very prudent and I will allow you to do this.”

            Iain wisely kept his mouth shut and stepped into the closest shadow. He exited at the top of a hill overlooking a battlefield where two armies clashed. One was composed of man sized vaguely froglike creatures with spears that had what looked like ceramic or shell points while the other was a force of hairy creatures with no visible facial features except for large yellow eyes using what looked like iron longswords that had been welded together at the pommel to form one long weapon with sword blades at each end. Both sides carried shields and the battle was like watching waves crashing together, leaving behind a trail of ruin and yellow or brown blood, depending on which side advanced or retreated. What only helped the imagery of waves was the fact that the reinforcements of the frog like creatures were coming out of the depths of a large lake and wading ashore before running to join their compatriots.

            Iain stepped again and was in his arrival point on Nightraven’s land. He raced for the tower, almost skidding to a halt in front of the door. “It’s me.” The door swung open and he entered. “Thank you.” He reached out with his perception and headed up the stairs when he found Nightraven standing at the battlement overlooking the forest to the south. “I have come to invite you to go on a shadow walk with me to the place where you can hunt dinosaurs.”

            She turned to look at him. “I see. Will Caintigern also be hunting there today?”

            “She will, but I wanted to take you there first. Then I will go get her.”

            Nightraven’s eyes met his. “Why do you wish to take me there first?”

            Iain steeled himself. “I do not know what relationship you and Caintigern have but, correctly or not, I got the distinct impression that you were not pleased that I had taken her on a shadow walk and taken her someplace to feed before I had done either with you, although you had never shown an interest in my ability to walk shadows before. I hope to make it up to you by taking you there and giving you two hours to hunt before I go get Caintigern as she was there for just one hour before I brought her to the forest on my land.”

            Nightraven’s expression didn’t change. “Does Caintigern know what you plan?”

            “She knows that I want to bring you to the Island first, but not that I plan to give you time to hunt alone before I go get her. I did not deceive her. She didn’t ask but it shouldn’t make her upset with me.”

            “You fear for your safety. Is it from her or me that you fear?”

            “Only an idiot would not be afraid of both of you and I am not an idiot.”

            He was surprised by the faint hint of a smile. “No, you are many things but you are not an idiot. I will accept your offer. What must I do to shadow walk?”

            “You must take my hand, step when and only when I tell you to and, above all else, you must trust me to do this without interference from you.”

            “That last will be very difficult. You are my student and I know the extent of your knowledge quite well.”

            “Not in this you don’t,” Iain disagreed. “As far as I know, I am the only living person to do this and I have always eventually gotten to my destination.”


            “As far as I can tell, shadow walking is travel from one destination to another through the intervening universes as they slide between, through and around each other. The only steps which are certain are the first and the last, but I have never stepped into a universe that would prove instantly fatal.” He smiled briefly. “Or else I wouldn’t be here. I believe that my magic somehow chooses among the myriad of universes so as to ensure that I have sufficient time to move to the next one before I perish. Still, some of them were in vacuum, a few had dangerous animals, a few had high radiation and one was in the middle of a forest fire. However, so long as you listen to me, we will make our destination.” He smiled again. “And our destination is dangerous enough. The dinosaurs and other creatures can be very lethal.”

            “What did Caintigern kill and eat when she hunted?”

            “She ate an Allosaurus, a Diplodocus, a Rex and most of two Carnotaurus. She killed the Rex.”

            Curiosity appeared for an instant in her eyes. “What killed the others?”

            “The Rex killed the Diplodocus. I killed the rest of them.”

            “She fed from your kills? Did you allow her to feed from your kills? And she accepted this?”

            “I did and she did.” Iain didn’t like the look that flashed through her eyes. “What did I do wrong?”

            “A kill is a very personal thing. Among the People, a drake will allow a dragoness he is courting to feed from his kills. He is showing that he can care for her and their offspring should she be unable to hunt. You do not know this but Caintigern does. A dragoness will not accept food from a drake that she is not interested in. She will spurn his offer and hunt for herself. Caintigern fed from your kills.”

            She is jealous, his twee whispered in his mind. We are so dead.

            Iain didn’t hesitate. “I didn’t know that. Then I should hunt for you too, should I not? That would give you the choice to feed from my kill or spurn it and hunt for yourself.”

            Nightraven watched him for several seconds. “Once more you prove you are not stupid. You will hunt for me.”

            What is a better kill than an Allosaurus and two Carnos, his twee asked.

            Iain gave a mental shrug. That depends on what she values. A bronto or two? Or a couple of Rexes? I suspect it’ll be I kill things and she judges. “I will and cheerfully. I don’t suppose you could give me a hint as to what you might want to eat, be it a top predator or a large tasty herbivore?”

            Her eyes seemed to peer into his soul. “I will have to think about that. I have never been asked that question before. As you are hunting for me, which would you consider more appropriate?”

            Iain answered without thinking about it. “I believe any hunter can get lucky and kill something huge once in a while. But a man who wants to prove that he is a good hunter would provide enough food to prove that he can hunt successfully on a regular basis to keep his family fed and not so much as to gorge his prospective mate. As for meat and flavor, I think that herbivores tend to taste better.”

            “You gave Caintigern enough meat to gorge.”

            “She had to rejuvenate her body. That took a lot of meat. Unfortunately for you, I haven’t hunted and eaten a lot of the animals on the Island and I don’t have an opinion on how most of them taste. With the understanding that I cheat, I’d provide you with an assortment of smaller animals to taste.”

            “You cheat?”

            “I haven’t figured out how to take the form of an adult dragon yet, so I can’t hunt larger creatures easily and I don’t want you watch me fail epically when I try to hunt them as a juvenile.” Her eyebrows drew together for a second and then she gave another faint smile. “So I’ll stay human and hunt with my pistol and magic.”

            “Is that what you did with your kills for Caintigern?”

            “I shot all three of my kills that she fed from.”

            “You are an adult in your human form. Why do you think it is difficult to transition that to an adult dragon?”

            “I haven’t ever seen an adult male of the People and only one adult of the People at all in her dragon form. I have no idea how an adult male differs from an adult female, except for the obvious. If you could provide me with images from your memories, I could study them.”

            “I will consider your request. It has been a long time since I saw an adult male of the People and I did not interact with many of them before my exile. Have you made this request of Caintigern?”

            “I have not. I wanted to ask you first. I’ve known you a lot longer than I’ve known her, even if by the way you reckon time I haven’t known you for long at all.”

            “I am,” she hesitated, “pleased that you asked me first. Still, she is much older than I am and interacted with many males in her time as Queen. Although I carry the blood of the Queen’s line and therefore I am one of the nobles, I was not highly placed in the society of the People and few adult drakes sought me out to spend time with. Ask her for her assistance in this as well. It would be useful if you could become an adult drake without having to wait the necessary centuries for you to grow into one.”

            “I will. Are you ready to go?”

            She stepped forward and held out her left hand. “I am.”

            Iain took her hand with his right, reflecting on the fact that in all of the years he’d known Nightraven, he had never touched her outside of combat training. “Now when I tell you to, step with me.” He waited a second. “Step.” Her leg moved with his.

            They emerged on the side of a dirt road with deep, narrow ruts in it. Ahead of them a coach drawn by a team of horses labored up a hill. Clouds of dust billowed behind the coach in the hot, dry sunlight. Two men sat on the top of the coach, one was obviously the driver while the other clutched a firearm of some kind in his arms as he tried to stay in place on the rocking coach. Iain glanced at it and then at Nightraven, who had a death’s grip on his hand. “Step.”

            Something crunched under Iain’s feet and he looked around to see that where they stood the ground was carpeted with human bone. Radiation levels are much higher than normal background would account for but a normal human could tolerate this amount of fallout for weeks of constant exposure. I am also picking up multiple telemetry sources around us. They are not encoded but they are using a machine language I do not recognize and currently cannot translate without a much larger sample. There are elements of human coding in the samples of the language that I am collecting, but it has evolved substantially beyond its origins. “Step.”

            They stood not far from where Caintigern had gulped down her first meal in uncounted years. “We’ve arrived.” With his perception he could see a small group of raptors a dozen meters away, hidden on the other side of some bushes. He summoned his bow as he let go of Nightraven’s hand. The first arrow took the leader in the throat and it dropped instantly. The second went down as quickly and the rest raced away in pursuit of a Gallimimus. “If you’ll come with me, I’ve arranged your first opportunity to snub my offer to let you feed from my kill.”

            Nightraven followed him without comment until she saw the two dinosaurs. “What are these?”

            “With the understanding that everything here has some sort of genetic modifications from the original stock, this is a variant of the Utahraptor, a predatory dinosaur. These are normal for here, but there is a version that glows red and is much more powerful and dangerous.” Iain swept a hand towards them. “I offer you my kill.”

            Nightraven looked evenly at him long enough to make him nervous before nodding. She stepped towards him and took a deep breath, inhaling through her nose. “I accept your offer.” She turned towards the dead raptors and took her dragon form. Although smaller than Caintigern’s form, it was otherwise identical to it. She is roughly forty meters long, his twee whispered to him as she almost daintily picked up the first raptor in her teeth and bit down. That is not going to be enough food for her.

            Already looking for more. Iain expanded his perception and drew his pistol when he found a triceratops off to their left. I don’t think my bow will kill that thing instantly, so it’s time to make some noise when I shoot. Nightraven was swallowing the second raptor. I’ll wait until she’s done and warn her first so I don’t startle her.

            Good idea. Startling her could be bad. Oh, one hour and fifty seven minutes to go.


            Caintigern glanced at him and back to Nightraven where she lay in the sun, her wings partially spread. “You did not bring her here and come get me immediately.”

            Iain nodded. “I did not. She has been here for two hours.”


            “I wanted him to hunt for me,” Nightraven said from where she lay. “I too have eaten from his kills.” Her head rose as she turned to face her relative. “Iain is not versed in the customs of the People and therefore he was unaware that he had initiated courtship of you, as you undoubtedly know. I wished him to initiate courtship with me as well so that we are equal in this and today he has done so.”

            Caintigern looked at Iain. “You are the greediest drake I have ever known. You cannot have both of us as mates.”

            He smiled without showing teeth. “I don’t really want either of you as a mate. I don’t know anything about you or her except you both are really good at giving me orders.” His smile faded. “That and both of you can manage to choke down more than your own body weight in meat and not die from overeating.”

            Caintigern nodded. “As we discussed before, the strong command the weak. It is the way of things.”

            Iain started to say something and stopped. He took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds and slowly exhaled. “I believe,” he said calmly, “that you wanted to go hunting. This entire place is yours to explore and hunt and when you ladies are ready to go home I’ll be around.”

            “You are angry again. Why are you angry with me this time?”

            “You’re still pretending that I can be your friend and your servant at the same time. I told you then that it isn’t possible and that hasn’t changed.”

            Caintigern looked at Nightraven again and back to him. “Is she your friend?”

            “She is not.” Iain really did not want to continue this line of discussion. “Can you create holograms?”

            “I am not sure what that is.”

            Iain pulled out his phone and activated a holographic playback of the fight Caintigern had with the Rex during their first visit. She watched in fascination as the hologram played. “This is a hologram. It’s a recording of the battle you had with the Rex. I’d like to see adult males of the People so that I have a reference for what I’m trying to become. I don’t think there is a lot of sexual dimorphism between males and females of the People but I’d hate to find out later that I’m wrong and I’m supposed to have horns or something.”

            “That makes sense. I cannot make these holograms. When we return I will give you memories of my interactions with other drakes that you may use for your studies.”

            Iain sighed. “Thank you.”

            “You do not want this?”

            “I was hoping to avoid getting anyone’s memories.”

            “Why? My memories are very accurate.”

            “I am aware that spells can be woven into memory globes. I don’t trust you.”

            “Why would I seek to ensnare you with my magic through my memories?”

            “To make me more compliant to your wishes, perhaps?”

            Caintigern smiled amusedly. “I am more powerful than you comprehend. One day, if you survive, you may become powerful enough to resist me, but now you cannot. If I wished to break you to my will, I would and there is nothing you could do to stop me. I have no need to seek to deceive you because you could not stop me. The memories I will offer you do not need to be tainted with control magic.”

            “You have already expressed unhappiness with the fact that I refuse to pretend to be your friend while I am also yours to command. You could easily wrap those memories with a subtle compulsion to do so and you might not even be aware that you’d done it. Why might you do something like that unconsciously? Because you have admitted that you are lonely and it would make you happier and we all sometimes unconsciously try to influence the environment around us to make us happier.”

            Caintigern frowned and looked thoughtful for a moment. “I will carefully ensure that nothing like that happens.”

            “And now we’re back to where I have to trust you and I don’t want to.”

            Nightraven lifted her head again. “If she swears a vow to not taint those memories and then I examine them first to ensure that they are not, will you trust her and, more importantly, me?”

            “With all due respect, you are already well aware that because of our past, I have major trust issues with you.”

            She dipped her head in a nod. “Do you trust Caintigern more than you trust me?”

            “That’s hard to determine. I trust both of you to be completely selfish and I trust neither of you to value what is important to me, except where it impinges on your personal desires.”

            Caintigern chuckled softly. “You claim to be afraid of both of us and yet your answer challenges us to punish you for your temerity.”

            Nightraven became her human form and walked over to face her grandaunt. “I do not punish my student for true honesty. I punish him for untrue honesty and falsehood. You will not teach him to fear speaking the truth.”

            “He cannot successfully lie to us and his brashness will prove his undoing among the People,” Caintigern disagreed. “The dragonesses will not tolerate a drake who insults them, especially if it is with the truth.”

            “Iain is a remarkably quick study when suitably motivated. If you force him to study how to cloak his lies with the essence of the truth, he will quickly find a way to do so and then all of his words will forever be suspect. Do not give him a reason to perform that research. I need his honesty more than I need to punish him for speaking as frankly as any dragoness would. I need his honesty enough to keep others from teaching him to be dishonest.”

            “You would confront me over this trifling matter, niece?”

            “I am confronting you over this. You do not want him learning to keep you from knowing when he tries to lie to you.”

            Caintigern didn’t bother trying to hide her disbelief. “That is impossible.”

            “According to the magical traditions of the People, shadow walking is impossible and yet Iain walks the universes without opening gates. I have experienced it and I was watching closely and I do not know how this is done. You do not know how this is done or you would have used it when you returned to Iain’s lands after your visit to my home to show me your power. He is doing the impossible already meaning that all other things that we know are impossible are not necessarily impossible for him.”

She looked at Iain. “Caintigern has knowledge of adult drakes that you need and she is unwilling to share it with you unless it is through memory transfer. You will have to make a decision to either trust her not to try and enslave you and trust me to verify that she is not trying to enslave you while not enslaving you to my will or you will not likely get her knowledge. Remember that it is in both her and my interest that you quickly learn to become an adult drake.” She glanced at Caintigern and back to him. “And it is very much in my interest to ensure that you are not under Caintigern’s control for that would not suit my purposes. If I wished you to be under my control you would already be.”

            Iain growled in the back his throat. “Fine.”

            “You must learn to control your emotions,” Caintigern said warningly. “Or else one day you will lose control and destroy yourself.”

            ‘Well, we can’t have you losing the only drake you’ve known in a while.” Iain rubbed his temples. “My headache is back with a vengeance and I believe you ladies were going to go hunting all over the Island.”

            Nightraven nodded. “You could come hunting with us.”

            “Until I learn to be an adult I’d just be in the way. While you’re hunting I’m going to scout the southern portion of the Island. It is supposed to be the safest part. When we were hunting earlier I didn’t see any signs of habitation and I don’t think there are any other humans here. But if there are, there will be signs of their presence on the south beaches. If there aren’t I’ll be scouting out a place to build a base since we’ll be coming back to hunt fairly regularly.”

            “What if there are humans here,” Caintigern asked.

            “This is an artificial world and everything, including the humans, are part of the ecosystem. If killed, they will be cloned and reborn unless the Overseer decides they’re not worth recovering. If removed from here, they’ll probably die and I’m not putting my family through watching them perish or trying frantically to figure out a way to save them. If there are humans I’ll avoid them unless I can’t, at which point I’ll kill them until they learn to leave me alone.” He smiled. “I came back here a few local hours after we left and launched some drones to explore the place. They haven’t seen any signs of intelligent life,” his smile grew, “or humans, so I don’t expect I’ll find anything of note. Also, and just as importantly, they weren’t bothered by anything except some of the local wildlife, which means that either the Overseer of this Island is nonfunctional or we are outside its programming parameters.” He shifted to his full sized dragon form. “At this size I can’t hunt the things you are going to want to and I don’t feel like watching you two kill everything interesting, so I’m going to pass.” He went up on his hind legs and bent in a quick bow. “Ladies.” He spread his wings and then stopped. “No, staying on the ground will let more things chase me.” He folded his wings and raced south into the woods.

            Nightraven changed to her dragon form. “The most aggressive prey is to the north, but I have found the prey with the best flavor is the Gallimimus, Calicotherium, and Paraceratherium. I will admit that I have not sampled everything on this place. During the hours that I had before Iain brought you here, instead of hunting we flew around this place and he pointed out things he thought I would like to eat. I did have him kill a few of them and I ate those as a test.”

            Caintigern also changed to her dragon form. “If you do not rein in Iain, he will be killed by an angry dragoness when you return to the People.”

            “Iain will not take the correction of a stranger lightly,” Nightraven said. “And he is not a drake of the People in his heart and does not have the cultural or genetic conditioning of the drakes. Any drake or dragoness who tries to correct him that he has no concern about may well end up dead.”

            Caintigern hissed. “He would strike down a dragoness?”

            “He would without hesitation. And before we rejoin the People, I will teach him the fastest ways to kill us. I need him to be unhesitating, deadly and unrelenting against my foes, which will include all of the offspring of Blacktooth and her minions.” She spread her wings and crouched. “Now, let us hunt.” With that she sprang into the air and flew north. Caintigern launched herself into the air and went sweeping after her niece.


            “Did you find any signs of sentient life here,” Caintigern asked as she shifted to her human form.

            “Except for some very old ruins that I already knew about I did not, but I did find what looks like a decent place to set up a place for us to rest. There’s an island to the west that has a rock large enough for both of you to use as an overlook and sunning rock at the same time even in your dragon forms and I thought I’d build on the cliff on the other side of the rock so you don’t have to see it. It’s heavily wooded but I can fix that.” Iain looked from her to Nightraven as the younger dragoness also became human. “Would you like to see it?”

            “We overflew it while you were scouting it,” Nightraven said. “You did see us.”

            “I did, but you might not have realized that was the place I was describing. And it was raining and foggy when you flew by and there weren’t any large animals around so you might not have paid it much attention.”

            “The volcano will be a better place to sun,” Caintigern noted. “However, a quiet place to rest will also be appreciated. Have you decided to accept or reject my offer of the memories of adult drakes that you requested?”

            Iain nodded. “I don’t have much choice if I want that knowledge, so as long as Nightraven is willing to do the examination she offered to do, I will accept the memories you are offering.”

            Caintigern hissed softly. “You will give her more respect. She will be Queen one day.”

            Iain smiled thinly. “Almost nobody enters a fight expecting to lose it, and that will include the Queen that she will have to defeat. Until she stands over the body of that Queen, nothing about that battle is certain except that it will be fought and someone will die at the end of it. Until that battle is over and she is victorious in it and the one she will have to fight immediately after that battle if she wins the first one, there is no guarantee that she will be Queen.”

            Caintigern frowned. “What second battle do you refer to?”

            “The Queen’s Princess will see that Nightraven has expended energy and possibly blood in that battle and she will fight her immediately for the throne for it is obviously her best chance of defeating Nightraven before she can recover from the fight with her mother.”

            “That would never happen. That goes against the customs of the People.”

            Iain managed not to let the sarcasm he felt show in his voice. “This Queen and Princess are of the bloodline of Blacktooth. Wasn’t it against the customs of the People to rise up in revolt against the new Queen and exterminate her entire bloodline? It was betrayal of vows of loyalty and honor of the basest sort. What makes you think they’ve grown a sense of honor since that time?”

            “This is why I do not punish him for speaking his mind,” Nightraven said abruptly. “That second battle will take place as certainly as you will have to feed again one day, Caintigern, and you hadn’t considered that it would, but he did.”

            “Did you consider this second battle?”

            “I did not, but I train to defeat all of the bloodline I will be replacing, even if I must fight them all at the same time. Honor and custom has no place in the war I must wage. I cannot afford it and my enemies have shown they do not deserve it.” She looked at Iain. “I will do as I offered and ensure that Caintigern does not knowingly or unknowingly try to bewitch you and bend you to her conscious or unconscious will.”

            He managed not to sigh, figuring it would just aggravate at least one of them. “Then I accept her offer of the memories and your offer of the oversight.”

            “Agreed.” Nightraven turned to Caintigern. “Give me the memories to examine.”

            Caintigern placed her index finger against the center of her forehead and pulled a deep blue ball of light from it and turned to offer it to her niece. “Here they are.”

            Nightraven touched it with her index finger and it stuck as she pulled her hand back. She examined it closely before offering it to Iain, “It is only memories.” Iain took it in his palm and she wrapped her fingers around his. “Copy it for me before you implant it.”

            “Wait.” Caintigern touched her forehead again with the tip of her index finger and pulled another dark blue globe from it before offering it to Nightraven. “This one is for you. These memories cannot be copied.”

            Nightraven took the globe and offered it to Iain. “Show her what you have learned that she has not." Iain took the new globe and pressed it and the first together so that they combined. Then he touched it with his index finger and it changed color to gold before it divided in two. He offered one of them to Nightraven, who took it. “Well done,” she murmured. “Implant the memories.”

            Iain pressed the globe into his forehead as she pushed the globe she held into her temple. Iain blinked and shuddered for several seconds. “That should be helpful,” he said slowly in a strained voice.

            “Indeed,” Nightraven said as she shuddered too. She looked at Caintigern. “I presume the memories of your years on the throne were for me and the memories of your interactions with drakes was for Iain.”

            “They were,” Caintigern was looking at Iain. “It is impossible to copy those memories.”

            “Obviously you need to rethink your definition of what is and what is not impossible as you watched the memories be copied,” Nightraven said. “And as I have learned to do that as well, I will teach you so that we all know how it is done.” She turned to Iain. “You will continue to hunt for both Caintigern and me. You will hunt for us only when we are together so that we may assess your suitability as a mate.”

            Iain managed to avoid saying the first thing that tried to escape his mouth and merely nodded, hoping it looked like he agreed with what Nightraven was telling him that he was going to do. “Shall I take you ladies home now?”

            “Yes,” Nightraven said. “First Caintigern and then me.”


            The redheaded woman looked up when the door to the cellblock swung open. Her guards, stationed on the other side of the wall from her cell, didn’t stop watching her closely as a man walked down to her cell and stopped in front of it. Her eyes narrowed when she recognized him. “You!”

            He nodded. “That’s right, me.”

            “Why are you here, Iain Grey?”

            “I’m here because of your last request, Teresa.”

            She glared at him. “Of all the things I might ask for, you are not anywhere on that list. Why are you really here?”

            “You asked to see Miriam and Hailey before your execution. I’m here to tell you that you aren’t going to be allowed that request. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

            The Angel folded her arms. “That’s not your decision to make.”

            “Yes, it is and it’s my decision to make because of you.”

            “You’re talking nonsense. I want to see my girls!”

            “After you murdered your sister,” Iain didn’t let his satisfaction show when she flinched, “because Karen was her friend, Lucifer and I adopted the girls, and they agreed to the adoption. I’m their father now and I don’t think it’s in their interests at all to see their mother’s killer, and especially not since you’re their aunt. I don’t care what you want and they’re not coming. I talked to the warden and she’s willing to let you have a different request as long as they can fulfil it in the time you have left.”

Teresa was staring at him with a shocked look. “You adopted Miriam and Hailey?”

            “Yes. Because of what you did, your nieces will grow up knowing as their father the man who you think is the evilest thing you can imagine and after tonight you will get to watch them grow up with me from the lands of the dead where you can’t change a thing about it. Thank you.” He didn’t move as Teresa screamed in fury and lunged for the bars and him, only to slam into the force field that protected them from beings with enhanced strength. Iain watched her rage at him wordlessly for a moment before smiling. “I won’t speak to you again, at least not this side of death and I expect Karen is waiting for us to send you to her so I may not even see you there. So goodbye.” She shrieked at him as he turned and walked out of the cellblock.

            Lucifer was waiting with the warden in the warden’s office. The warden, a Megami named Sally, was watching him curiously as her secretary let him in. “The guards report she’s actually frothing in rage. What did you do to her?”

            “I never touched the lass. We just had a chat. I think she has some unresolved anger issues towards me. Pity she won’t get a chance to work through them.”

            Lucifer took his hand. “I don’t think she’d ever work through what you did to her unless she could stand over your lifeless body afterwards. You were extraordinarily cruel to her.” She kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

            Sally looked from him to her. “You planned this?”

            “We didn’t plan anything except I was going to talk to Teresa alone. Lucifer was concerned that if she spoke to Teresa she’d end up killing her,” Iain said quietly. “Miriam is afraid we’re going to abandon her too and Hailey is overcompensating by trying to make everyone her friend so she and her sister won’t ever be alone again if we start dying. Teresa really fucked them up when she killed Karen. Up until the time that they were estranged, Karen intended for Teresa to take them if anything happened to her and the girls knew that and they knew that Teresa claimed to love them. And then Teresa killed her sister and their mother. There is no way I would ever let her near my kids.” Iain squeezed Lucifer’s hand. “I’ll also be there tonight when she’s executed. Miriam wants me to tell her when Teresa is dead, and for her I intend to watch that happen so she’ll know it’s certain.”

            Sally nodded. “I’ll make sure you have a good seat. Do you want to carry out her sentence?”

            “Miriam doesn’t want me do to that,” Iain said. “And, honestly, it wouldn’t be a good thing for me to do. I don’t want to enjoy killing someone and since she’s the reason that Hailey and Miriam both have nightmares that are almost as bad as mine, I just might enjoy putting Teresa down.” He smiled. “As you and anybody else who can scan auras knows, I’m not the nicest person already.”

            Sally shook her head. “Don’t discount yourself so much. I read the aura of every prisoner who comes through my prison, Iain. I’m looking at your aura now and you are better than a lot of them, including Teresa.”

            Lucifer chuckled. “Will you listen to the opinion of an unbiased observer if you won’t listen to us?”

            “I believe I was told I was a good bad man by my family,” Iain said with another smile. “Sally makes me out to be better than that.”

            “No, that’s pretty accurate,” Sally corrected him. “But the world needs good bad people to catch the really bad people.” She leaned back in her chair. “Hell, my aura isn’t that great because of some of the things I’ve had to do in order to do the right thing.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind,” Iain said. “Has the time of the execution been changed?”

            “No, it’s still at 1900 hours. Is there a conflict?”

            Iain shook his head. “Nope. Just checking. I’ll be here early.”


            Lucifer chuckled. “Iain can’t help it. He’s more than a little OCD about time. He is either early or very early to most things.”

            Iain shook his head. “I’ll see you tonight, Sally.” He took Lucifer’s hand. “Let’s get outside the teleport block and go home.”

            “Looking forward to your first surveillance free period,” the Megami-Sama said as she gave Sally a goodbye wave and headed outside with her male.

            “I am,” Iain said. “I’ve got it planned out. Now just to see if it works as planned.”

            “Are you going to start with a long nap,” she teased him.

            “Think you’re funny, do you?” He shook his head. “No, I’ve got a lot of work to do that should be pretty hot and sweaty without being a whole lot of fun. I’ll shower before I come home.”

            “Are you sure you don’t want help with this project? I can carry and not speak.”

            Iain hugged Lucifer tightly and kissed her. “I appreciate the offer and thank you but no. Now please take me home.”


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

Geraldine - 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

     Miriam: Angel

     Haley: Angel


     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare