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“Do you have a moment, Iain?”
He looked up. “Sure, Cherry.” He handed a limp child to Camille. “I think Michael’s batteries finally ran down. Would you stick him with James and Jessica so he can start recharging?”
Camille carefully nestled her son in her arms. “I’ll be right back,” she said with a smile. “Say yes.”
Iain just watched her go before turning to Monica as she sat down and grabbed a bottle of root beer from the cooler. “Yes, huh? Am I being set up?”
She grinned and twisted the cap off of the bottle. “Isn’t that exactly what you’d expect from me when I worked for Blue?”
“You’re not that woman anymore. You smile too much to be her.”
Monica dimpled at him. “Thank you, but she’s still in here somewhere. And, no, you’re not being set up. Cammie knows what’s going on because I had to talk to my harem before I talked to you.” She took a gulp of root beer. “I want to wait until Cammie returns because you like her better.”
Iain shook his head. “I don’t dislike any of you, Monica. You’ve even managed to become my friend.”
“Not even Undine?”
Iain chuckled. “I don’t dislike Undine. Most of the time she’s all right.” He started to say something else and visibly rethought it. “Most of the time.”
“And the other times?” Iain raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. “You’ve never come right out and said what you don’t like about her, but it’s obvious there’s something.”
“Undine has been in your family for a couple of years. Jessica knows you as one of her mothers and she adores you. She was born here, after all. What I don’t like is that, once in a while, Undine starts talking about which harem she belongs in like it’s still the morning after she decided to sleep with you. That is settled. And don’t tell me that’s flirting. It isn’t flirting, and I know it annoys you too.”
“It does,” Monica admitted. “And it’ll need to be settled once and for all.”
“Undine wants your cock,” Camille stopped and looked from one to the other. “Are you fighting?”
Iain chuckled. “No. And for the record, Undine doesn’t know anything about my cock.”
“That’s not true.” Camille looked at Monica. “Can I choose who I snuggle with?”
Monica laughed. “That means it isn’t going to be me.” She waved the bottle at Iain. “Go ahead, if he’ll let you.”
Camille gave Iain a winsome smile. “Kind sir, may I partake of your body heat?”
Iain patted the seat next to him. “Yes.” Ganieda chuckled as the Ladyien curled up against him. “I certainly haven’t slept with Undine. I think I’d remember the critique afterwards.”
Camille giggled. “When Undine gets too bitchy about the lack of maleness in her life, Raquel is more than willing to make her jealous with stories about you. Being a pokegirl, those stories can get a wee bit explicit.”
Iain looked slightly surprised. He knew quite well what Raquel thought of Undine. “Raquel is spending time around Undine?”
“It’s more that we’ve been spending more time with your family, including Raquel,” Monica said. “They’re understandably interested in Michael, and, to a lesser extent, James and Jessica. We want to learn more about them since you’re our hosts.”
“This is just so bloody complicated,” Iain muttered.
“Watch your mouth,” Monica said. “If you’ll curse around us, you’ll curse around the children and they’re listening and trying to repeat what we say.” She smiled when Iain stuck out his tongue at her. “That they already know how to do.”
“You’ll notice that there are no children around except maybe me,” Iain pointed out. “I don’t curse around the little ones. And when they’re old enough to hear cursing around them they’ll get the same discussion that all the other kids get about how cursing is like wearing clothes and something that adults get to decide for themselves. Contrariwise, children have to do what their mothers tell them.” He glanced at the woman leaning against him and then at Chambers. “Since Cammie is back, what is it that she wants me to say yes to?”
“We want to join the clan,” Monica said simply. “I know you’ll let us, but first there are some things that need to be addressed.”
“You want to join the clan but you want conditions?” Iain glanced at Camille. “That’s not how it works.”
“It’s not conditions that we want, Iain,” Monica said. “It’s the fact that things need to be clarified and that, as you said before, it’s bloody complicated. Understand that this isn’t anything I decided hastily. First, I insisted that we all agree on this, and second, we’ve been discussing this off and on since Michael was born. His birth and your reaction to it was the initial catalyst for this.”
Iain frowned. “My reaction to Michael’s birth? What was wrong with my reaction to his birth?”
“Nothing,” Camille murmured against his shoulder. “It was the reaction of a father to the birth of his son. It was perfectly appropriate and wonderful to see.”
“Is this going to make sense eventually?”
Monica smiled. “You said before he was born that you were going to be Michael’s father.” She cocked her head. “Did you think we actually believed you? Do you have any idea how often men say that sort of thing? Look at what happened to Undine. Her family threw her away because she was pregnant, and especially since she was a pokewoman and so it might be a human child. They disposed of family. And it was obvious that you were furious with all of us for what we’d done. You still carry resentment over it. You hide it well, but it’s there.”
Iain snorted. “If you thought I only still resented it, I was hiding it better than I thought I was. At one point, Cherry, I wanted to kill all of you.”
“Considering that you’re the law here and you could make us disappear without a trace, what stopped you?”
“My family wouldn’t have understood and they would have been unhappy with me over it. Now?” He shrugged heavily, getting a soft protest from Camille until he stopped moving. “I’m working past it. For the most part I’ve subsumed it into the general anger I have over a lot of things. Otherwise, little miss here wouldn’t be draped against me.”
Monica nodded. “Understand that all of us, with the exception of Camille, were shocked when you did become first Michael’s father and then the father of our other two. And that’s what has complicated things so much. We’ve been learning as much about clan structure as we can and, if the situation were simpler, we’d be happy being outer clan. But the rules are pretty clear, and it isn’t likely that you’ll break the one where you are not to be the father to outer or satellite clan children. It is a fairly ironclad rule, both in what we could find out about clan history and in pokegirl ranking mentality.”
Ganieda touched his shoulder. “Ninhursag is on her way,” she said just loudly enough for Monica to hear. “Should I get April too?”
“Yes,” Iain replied.
An instant later Ninhursag appeared. She raised an eyebrow at the sight of Camille resting against Iain and settled down in a chair on his other side. “What’s up?” Just then April appeared. She motioned for her second to sit next to her. April’s mouth had tightened slightly at Camille, but she sat down without a word. “Well?”
“Monica and her family want to join the clan,” Iain said. “However, she has said there are complications due to clan law and pokegirls. I figured it would be easier if both of you were here to hear her explanation.”
“It probably has to do with Michael,” April said.
“In part, yes,” Monica agreed. “As I told Iain, I’d be comfortable in the outer clan, but Michael is Iain’s blood and all three kids think he’s their father. From what I understand, that would end if we joined the outer clan. If that’s true, then it’s not an option.”
“You know it’s true,” Ninhursag said. “Otherwise any pokegirl with a kid in the clan would be trying to get his attention with it.”
“Not just pokegirls,” Monica replied. “Human women are drawn to power just as much as pokegirls are. Men too, but Iain’s interests don’t run in that direction.”
April frowned. “Iain loves your kids, as you well know, and we do too. So you want to be inner clan. The problem with that is obvious. Inner clan here is also inner harem, and it will be that way until the children get old enough to form an inner clan separate from the harem. We haven’t put together the rules for the distinctions yet.”
Monica put her bottle down and sat up. “We know that, April. All of us have agreed, and we know you’ll check with truth magic, that we’re still interested,” she held up a hand as April’s face showed her surprise, “if we can get the same kind of arrangement that Ygerna or Kasumi have. I love my girls and they love me and we don’t want to be broken up.”
Ninhursag, April and Iain exchanged looks. “We call it a sept,” Ninhursag said. “It is an independent family of sorts within our family but it is subordinate to the clan’s leadership.”
“Like I told Iain, we’ve been doing some research and we understand what we’re asking for,” Monica said.
“Are you sure about that,” April asked curiously. “The septs are independent but tied to the clan by marriage. Both Ygerna and Kasumi are married to Iain. You’re not.”
“I know,” Monica replied. “I’ve thought about it and, after talking with my girls, I’ve decided that isn’t automatically a deal breaker. Iain and I are friends and he’s the closest male friend I’ve ever had. He’d be a good husband and good guardian to my girls and the children. As long as he’s willing to understand that my primary interests don’t lie with men, I’m certain we could come to an arrangement.”
“Iain is not going to be involved in a sham marriage,” Ninhursag stated angrily.
“Relax, Ninhursag,” Monica replied. “I wouldn’t do that to Iain and I doubt he’d let me do that to your family. I already know I feel a physical attraction to Iain and I suspect he might feel the same to me. However, I also know his standards and so we would have to spend time together and see if we could make a relationship work. I am merely pointing out that I believe we can.” She glanced at him again. “We’ve already had most of one for a few years now. As for my girls, you can see Camille is smitten with him. Undine is still curious about what she missed out on and Donna,” she smiled slowly. “Donna has been bitten by the baby bug and she already likes Iain, so she has decided that he’d be a good father to her babies.”
Ninhursag shot Iain a glance and he glanced back at her as he spoke to her through his twee. I am keeping quiet, as we agreed, and letting you negotiate this out. It’ll help people who are concerned that these decisions were made by my cock if I stay out of it.
He saw the flash of relief in her eyes. Thank you.
I do have to wonder about the timing of our discussion since it wasn’t that long ago. You saw this coming?
Canaan and Ganieda did. But I’d been planning to have that talk with you for a while. After all, this situation is likely to come up again. Well, maybe not the part where a woman got pregnant with your child by artificial insemination from a blood sample you gave for something entirely different. She refocused her attention on Monica. “So, just to be clear about what we’re discussing, you’re speaking for your entire family, right?”
“I know you’ll have them verify this and, yes, I am.”
“Are you likely to approach Jamie to have another child?”
Monica laughed softly. “Compared to me, Jamie Wolf is a child himself. As for the one living in Haven, he is not the man I knew. We all know that he went to another universe that was not this one and I haven’t seen him in decades. I love James with all of my heart and I have no regrets about having him, but he is the result of an old woman trying to grip her youth once again and the man she had a fancy for. The fact that I waited until he was comfortably far enough away that I’d never have to deal with him shows how much I wanted him involved. If I have another child I hope Iain will be its father.”
“In getting to know Iain and us better,” April said slowly and distinctly, “you are going to discover things that you have not suspected and that you haven’t learned here and that the Blue League government never knew. There will be more than one of these discoveries and if any of them is a deal breaker we need to know immediately. And if you share these things, it could go badly for all of us.”
Monica cocked her head. “What’s the worst one you can think of right now?”
Let me, Iain thought to April and Ninhursag together. They glanced at him and slowly, one at a time, nodded. “Are you aware that James’ genetics are not completely human? While the Jamie you knew looked completely human, that was because his grandfather limited how his Unicorn genes expressed. It was why he couldn’t do any magic. James carries some of those genes since he’s technically a quarter Unicorn and his sire is the product of Jamie Harris and the pokewoman Poppet. In him those genes are no longer limited, so he may have blood gifts from Poppet’s blood along with whatever pokegirls are in your ancestry.”
Monica nodded. “He should have a high aptitude for magic and possibly enhanced strength, at least that was the government’s assessment from a genetic test from his amniotic fluid. We won’t know for sure until he hits puberty. I presume this is pertinent somehow?”
Iain smiled. “When I gave the blood sample that was used to impregnate Camille, I was already magically powerful, if only potentially, and we all know that the Blue League hoped those powers would pass on to Michael, who they intended to raise as a loyal Blue. But I was still completely human.” His smile faded. “At that time. I’m not anymore. I’m not human at all anymore.” He grimaced. “That’s the first time I’ve actually said that out loud. It still hurts a little.”
Camille lifted her head to look at him. “I have two questions. Are you a pokegirl now?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Did Michael get any of your powers?”
Iain shook his head. “I’ve already tested him and he’s going to be a tough little kid, but he’s not a truewizard like me.”
“I’m glad. And if you’re not a pokegirl you can still father children with,” she hesitated, looking past him at April. “You know.”
“Yes,” April said flatly. “You can still get pregnant by him. Again.” She shrugged. “I was so angry at you because I wanted to be the first woman to carry his blood children and present them to him. Even if you hadn’t, I’m not a pokewoman just yet and Siobhan is pregnant with his child.”
Iain reached past Ninhursag and gripped April’s hand. “Now and forever, remember? You can’t even die on me because I’ll just go drag you back to the world of the living.”
April turned her hand over and gripped his back. “I remember,” she said with a grateful smile. “If I could have ever imagined my life would be what it is after meeting you I’d have never let you leave that first night.”
“I came back for you, I will always love you and you are here now and forever.”
She looked past him at Camille. “As long as he keeps telling me that, I won’t arrange any fatal accidents for you on the training field.”
Iain’s hand tightened. “April.”
“She’s not family yet. I can insult her and not have to apologize.” He just raised an eyebrow and she sighed. “Cammie, I’m sorry I sounded like I was threatening you. I probably was, and I apologize for it.”
“I accept your apology,” Camille said instantly. She smiled when Ninhursag looked surprised. “I have been paying attention. We want to stop being outlanders.”
Iain looked at Monica. “As I was explaining, I’m not human anymore. While I’m not kami or yokai or Sidhe, I was turned into a dragon, which is a supernatural creature. My children will carry that blood. Fortunately I can turn into a human even if I am not one.”
Monica eyed him curiously. “Is this where people used to say they were werewolves and, when searched, said their fur grew on the inside?”
“That was most likely a mental illness issue and, according to Theodora, my sanity is unchanged from when I first came to a pokegirl universe. Later, I can show you and your family my dragon form.”
Monica nodded. “We will need to see it before we join your family. What other secrets are we going to learn?”
Iain chuckled along with Ninhursag and April. “That’s quite a list and I don’t think we’ll share all of them right now.”
“We’ve been helping some with the children,” Camille said as she put her head back on Iain’s shoulder. “Is one of your secrets going to explain the new brunette who has been showing up recently? Mielikki, I believe her name is.”
“You have perfect recall,” Iain said amusedly. “That is her name and yes, while her presence isn’t a secret, there are some things about her that are not common knowledge.”
“Are any of them likely to make me so upset that I walk away from you,” Monica asked.
“Considering your past as being an official in the government of the Blue League, I believe you understand the need for compartmentalization,” Iain said. “Right?”
“We do too, and because of that there is a list of things that you’ll learn before joining us, some you’ll learn after joining us and some you may never learn unless the command elements of the clan decide you need to be read into them. The fact that I am a dragon is one of those clan secrets and if I hear that someone in the clan has been bragging about it to outlanders I am going to be very upset. And outlanders include James’ grandmother and whoever she might drag here to see him. While we are not enemies with the Wolf family and are slowly moving towards a closer relationship with them, we’re not friends and they don’t get our secrets unless we decide to tell them. So you know, they are already aware I’m a dragon. Kerrik informed them of it and it came up in a briefing I gave Shikarou a little while ago.”
“So we know that Poppet knows you’re a dragon, but you don’t want us to bring it up with her so she doesn’t know we know,” Monica said with an evil grin. “I like the way you think. The only problem is that someday James might tell her.”
“By then we’ll have worked out our issues with the Wolf family one way or the other,” Ninhursag said.
“So will I get to have another baby like Michael,” Camille asked.
“No,” April said. “Michael is a clone of Iain. Your next child will be a blend of your genes and Iain’s, as is proper.” She chuckled as she finally let Iain’s hand go. “And as also is proper, he’ll give you those genes directly in a private ceremony instead you having to get them from a centrifuge this time.”
Monica leaned forward and peered at her Ladyien. Abruptly she grinned. “You’re blushing.” She laughed when Camille ducked her head against Iain’s side. “I haven’t seen her do that in years.”
From Iain’s side came a muffled cry. “Mistress, please.”
Monica shook her head as her laughter subsided. “Iain,” she said, suddenly serious. “As the head of the clan, you have ministerial powers, right?”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “Which type of minister?”
“You can perform marriages and such.”
“I can. Why?”
“Before I’ll let Camille go to your bed, I want to marry her.” The Ladyien’s head came up and she stared at Monica in shock as Chambers continued. “Canaan showed how she and I are forming a delta bond and I don’t want you to screw that up. This way she’ll understand that this is a loan and I won’t lose her to you.”
“I would never try to convince Camille or anyone else to leave someone that she loves as much as she loves you,” Iain said quietly. “And if you have proposed to Camille and she has agreed to the proposal, I’d be happy to marry the two of you.” He looked at the Ladyien sitting next to him. “Has Monica proposed to you?”
“No, she hasn’t. And before she does, I need to know something. Monica, what about Donna or Undine? I’m your maharani, but it isn’t fair to get married until what will happen to them is settled.”
“Good question,” Ninhursag said. “And it shows your strength of character that you think of your harem sisters in this kind of situation.”
Monica looked at Iain. “How did you handle this when it came up?”
“I told the people involved how I felt about each of them and explained that I was going to marry each of them separately so that their wedding was just about them, instead of some group thing where nobody felt special. I also told them individually how I felt. That helped me later on when I married other women too, since everyone knew that it didn’t mean they might not end up as a Mrs. Grey.”
“It was quite the opposite,” Ninhursag said. “It gave those of us who weren’t loved like his wives or didn’t feel that we were the hope that someday our time would come.”
“Did that work,” Camille asked curiously.
“It did. I am one of his wives now,” Ninhursag said. “And it didn’t cause confusion in our internal rankings even if Eve and April outrank me as a wife because I am the maharani and my rank was given by Iain.” Iain just sighed quietly and gently banged his head against the tabletop. Ninhursag chuckled. “Did you expect anything different?”
“Expect? No. Hope for? I guess in family relations I am still an optimist.”
“No,” Camille said amusedly. “You’re a romantic. Specifically you’re a hopeless romantic.”
“Ok, that is very mean to call a man that,” Iain said quietly. “I am going to have to do something about you.”
Camille looked faintly worried. “What?”
“Are you ticklish?”
Camille almost jumped away from him and went around to sit with Monica. “You stay away from me.”
Monica chuckled and wrapped an arm around the Ladyien. “You are going to want to cuddle with him again eventually and I’ve heard he has a long memory. You might want to make peace with him before then.”
Camille looked at Iain. “I would like to formally apologize for saying that you’re a romantic. Obviously, I was wrong and you’re just a meanie.”
April laughed as Iain’s eyebrows rose. “Well, I’m not sure if I should accept such a heartfelt apology. You don’t really sound sincere.” He grinned at the Ladyien’s shocked look. “Your apology is accepted.” He shook his head slightly. “So as soon as Camille tells me you’ve proposed and she’s accepted, we’ll meet and discuss your wedding.”
“And we’ll meet again and finish working out how you’re going to join the clan,” Ninhursag said. “I will want to talk to everyone in your family and make sure we’re all on the same page.” She gave Monica a direct look. “And while I don’t dislike Undine, she has the attitude of a powerful Neo. I want to make sure she understands that your harem will stand subordinate to mine. She’s not pregnant right now, so that’s a perfect time for me to assert my authority over her if necessary. If you can’t allow that, then the situation is going to become much more complicated.”
“Undine isn’t nearly as powerful as she’d like everyone to think,” Camille said firmly. “Every time we’ve fought I have defeated her handily and without outside help. She’s powerful, but untrained and undisciplined, and in her arrogance she refuses to listen to my advice on how to improve. As her maharani, I’ve learned what motivates her and we’ll get together and work out how to deal with her before you have to crush her.” She smiled. “You’ll still have to smash her flat, but this way she can’t say you didn’t try to do this peacefully before it comes to blows.”
“I won’t stand between you and your authority,” Monica told Ninhursag. “Pokegirls are free people here and Undine has to learn her mouth can get her into a lot of trouble that I can’t protect her from and wouldn’t if I could. And she needs to learn it before we start training with April and Sofia.”
“Monica,” Iain said as he leaned back in his chair. “I’ll probably be picking your brain later. You know a lot more about politics than I do, and I may need to use that knowledge.”
“I don’t want an official position if it interferes with raising the children,” Monica said. “Other than that, I’m at your disposal.”
Ninhursag looked at Iain. “Any comments?” He shook his head. “Then let’s start the informal portions immediately. Monica, April will get with you this afternoon for you and your family’s physicals and evaluations. Tomorrow we’ll formally start you in the rotations with the children so we can include James, Michael and Jessica with the others immediately. That’ll get them working on socialization with others besides their siblings.”
“That’s faster than I thought,” Monica said. “What if things don’t work out?”
“You want to join us and having you in our family would neatly deal with some potential issues we’ve been trying to address for a while. As for you and Iain working out, that’s not going to be a problem and we all know it. You wouldn’t have brought the subject up if you weren’t already sure of that.”
Monica glanced at Iain. “I believe he has a say in all of this.”
“I do. And so far I don’t have anything to say against it. James, Michael and Jessica are my kids. I held them right after they were born, and I’ll hold them until they grow up and leave. What this does is avoid the awkward questions and hurt feelings in a couple of years that would have happened when, yesterday, they wouldn’t have been able to call Ninhursag and the others mother like they do you. Now it won’t come up, and that’s better for everyone. While we’re trying to stop adding people wholesale to the family, you’ve informally been part of it for a while. And while I do not want to have sex with every woman I meet, I have never said that about you and your ladies because it would have been a lie.”
Monica chuckled. “You are still so good for my ego.”
“I think that wraps up what we can get done right now,” April said. “I’ll get with Monica right after lunch and start the physicals, which includes the children.” She glanced at Iain. That includes twee for anyone who doesn’t have one. “If there isn’t anything else, I need to go talk to Sofia about how this will change the training this afternoon since she’ll be in charge while me and Siobhan are off at medical.” She waited a few seconds and then vanished.
“Don’t forget you’ve got feral hunting in two hours,” Ninhursag said to Iain.
“I won’t. Go.” She blew him a kiss and teleported away. He turned to Monica. “By the way, the next time Poppet comes to visit would you please let her know that I need to talk to her. It isn’t about this, but there’s something else she needs to know before she gets blindsided with it. That has to do with the new Unicorn whom you’ve started seeing with the children.”
“Marguerite?” Camille smiled. “I wanted to find out more about but she’s obviously a pokegirl so I knew she was harem.”
Monica nodded. “I’ll make sure Poppet gets the message. Does she need to know about us?”
“I don’t think this is any business of theirs. Do you?”
Monica shook her head. “I agree. Do you think later I can get a briefing from you about what really happened when they disappeared?”
“No, I don’t.” He smiled when she looked disappointed. “But I think maybe we could go on a lunch picnic Thursday, you and me, and I’ll tell you about it while we start working on getting better acquainted.”
“That would be nice,” Monica said thoughtfully. “I haven’t been on a date with anyone in years.”
Iain looked surprised. “Jackie never took you on a date?”
“Not me alone. We always went as a group.”
“I plan on doing group activities with your family, but I also want to spend time with you and the others individually.” Iain grimaced slightly. “Would it bother you if I said I don’t want Jackie coming around here anymore? There’s something about her that makes me not trust her and I don’t think it’s good for that woman to be around our children.”
Monica smiled. “Then you’re in luck. I happen to believe in being exclusive with my partners. If we’re dating or married, I won’t be seeing Jackie at all.”
“Doesn’t that mean once you marry Camille we’ll have to stop dating?”
Monica looked surprised and Camille turned bright eyes on her. “Well, mistress,” she asked in a teasing voice, “does that mean you’ll dump our Iain?”
“I’ll have to change that rule to being exclusive inside my family. Since Iain is James’ father, he’s family too.”
“I think that will satisfy everyone,” Camille said. “Iain will be better for you than Jackie ever was.” She gave her mistress a sly look. “Not to mention you’re horny for most of his women, too.”
Monica drew herself up in mock outrage. “I can’t believe you said that. Iain, don’t listen to a word of her lies.”
“Does that mean you wouldn’t sleep with others in your new family if they expressed interest in you after you’ve married me,” Iain asked with a grin.
She gave him a haughty look. “I would, of course, do what I could to help my family. If some of that help turned out to be sexual in nature, so be it.”
“Of course,” Ganieda said. “No sacrifice is too great for your new family.”
“I’ll be sure and tell them you think it’s a sacrifice,” the Snugglebunny Splice continued. Monica gave her a glare and she laughed. She looked down at Iain. “You have twenty more minutes before you have to go get changed for the feral hunting and Lucifer wants to talk to you about something with Prometheus too before you go, which is why you can’t spend the whole two hours here. Most importantly of all, Jessica is about to wake up unhappy because she could use a diaper change. Poop.”
Iain shook his head and got up as he looked across the table at Camille. “Should I get Jessica and meet you at the changing table? If Jessica needs changed, the others will too and Ganieda can make sure everyone does every waste related activity that they will need to do in the near future so they won’t need changed again for a while.”
“You can do that?”
“Ganieda can,” Iain said.
“Why haven’t we found out about that before,” Camille asked as she stood.
“You weren’t becoming family before,” Ganieda said. “I volunteered to Iain to do this. He can’t make me. Now let me show you how it works. So he’ll get Jessica and you and I can get James and Michael.”
“I’m coming too,” Monica said and followed as they headed off.
Mielikki put down the tablet and managed not to growl in frustration. “While I am learning a lot about technology, I am not a technologically inclined being.”
“That would make sense as you are a creature of magic,” Theodora said. “Do I need to explain anything about what you were reading?”
“Thanks to my twee, the teacher and your lessons, I understand what I read. The problem is that it doesn’t help me.” She pushed the tablet away from her. “Can I see the medical workups on the individual goblins instead of this compilation?”
Theodora shook her head. “Privacy won’t allow me to release those to you. If you want to see those you can either get the individual goblins to allow it or go to Iain for a general release authorization. Only Daya, me and Siobhan have the authorization to access those records.”
“I’m not sure it would help anyway,” Mielikki said. “Where is Arianrhod?”
Theodora smiled. “You don’t know?”
Mielikki chuckled. “Even at the height of my power I was never known for omniscience. I know where the individual members of the herd are and I know that their dead are that way,” she pointed downward and to the right, “because they worship me. I also know where Iain is because he is my novice. The goblins do not venerate me so I do not know where they are and my twee can’t locate her on board the ship so she must be back on Earth somewhere.”
“Not all of the dead unicorns worshipped you, correct?”
“Yes. The herd was in existence when I arrived in the forest and it was only some time later that they became aware of my presence and I accepted their request to be their goddess and teach them how to properly worship me.”
“Do you know where the dead who didn’t worship you are too?”
Mielikki nodded. “I do, because they were in the care of herd queens who did worship me. Each herd queen asks my blessings over all of the herd’s dead when she becomes the herd queen and they accept the herd’s dead from the previous queen. Anything that I have blessed with protection is mine to know where it is.”
“That it interesting to know. Arianrhod is with Sofia and April in the briefing room at the Sabine House. They’re planning some exercises that the goblins and the Elves will be working on later this week.”
“Thank you, Theodora.” Mielikki headed for the transport room and back to the room chamber. She could teleport, but it would use magic and there was no hurry. And the trip back took several minutes, letting her think about the question she had.
April, Sofia and Arianrhod all looked up when Mielikki opened the door. “I apologize for disturbing you,” she said. “I was hoping to learn when you were going to take a break. At that time, I’d like to speak with Arianrhod.”
Sofia’s ears flicked. “I have to pee.” She looked at April. “I don’t get a lot of warning sometimes.”
“Ten minutes,” April said with a laugh. Immediately Sofia zipped past Mielikki and down the hall. “Come in.”
Mielikki smiled as she slipped into the room. “I didn’t make her have to pee.”
April laughed again. “No, being pregnant made her have to pee when she thought about it. That happened to me too and it’ll happen again soon enough.”
Arianrhod stood. “Lady Mielikki,” she said cautiously.
“I am clan and no titles should be used,” Mielikki replied, “for I am not your goddess. I was hoping to get an hour of your time later today or tomorrow.”
“It’ll have to be tomorrow,” Arianrhod said.
“Then tomorrow it will be. I am exploring an issue and I need the assistance of the goblins. I will need permission to magically examine a small number of them, but I assure you that I will harm none and the examination will take less than five minutes each.”
“What is this about,” April was watching her curiously.
“I am not certain it is about anything at this point, but the examination will be a start to determining if it is. And since I am not certain, I would like to not try to explain something that may not be anything. Therefore, right now this merely about how I would like to try and satisfy my curiosity.”
“Is there anything specific about the goblins you want to look at,” Arianrhod asked.
“There is. There are three categories of goblin I would like a small numerical sample of. I would like at least three of each category. The first category is goblin women who have had at least one child. The second is of goblin women who have never had a child. And I am not even certain if the third category can be put together. My understanding is that the descent in the Black Rock tribe is matrilineal.”
“It is,” Arianrhod said.
“I was hoping that the third sample would be three males who are known to have sired children, but I suspect that can’t be known.”
The goblin woman shook her head. “No, it cannot. All that is important to us is who the child’s mother is. I could get you three strong males who are old enough to have possibly sired children and that the women have favored for a very long time. In that group, there should be some that would provide a sampling of at least some of what you are looking for.”
“Could I also get three males who are not strong or favored and are too young? That would increase the chances that they have not sired children.”
“If you don’t tell them what the category is,” Arianrhod said with a cruel smile, “I can.”
“That would still be helpful. I have no difficulty in conducting this examination in the goblin’s quarters so they do not have to be outside more than necessary.”
Arianrhod shook her head again. “We are the clan’s heavy infantry and April, Sofia and I agree that the goblins need to become used to being outside for long periods of time. I can have the goblins ready for you to examine right after breakfast and before we go off for training. We can meet outside the Sabine House.”
“I’m helping cook breakfast so that would be perfect. Thank you for your help in this, Arianrhod.”
‘It is but a little request,” Arianrhod said.
“It is,” Mielikki replied “But always remember that from a tiny seed can grow the mighty oak. Now I will take my leave of you. I too have training today, only with Vanessa.” She bowed gracefully and left.
Arianrhod turned questioning eyes on April and the Duelist shook her head. “I have no idea what this is about.”
“Would the clan leader?”
“You’d have to ask him. He hasn’t said anything to me about anything like this.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to disturb him about this,” Arianrhod mused. “She did say that it was satisfying her curiosity and nothing significant.”
“That’s your call,” April said. She, however, thought that anything having to do with their goddess clanswoman might be important and made a note to show Iain the recordings of the meeting with her. “Sofia’s on her way back, so let’s return to planning.”
“All I will do is place my palm on your forehead and hold it there for a moment,” Mielikki explained in a voice which carried to each of the goblins standing in line. “You should not feel anything, but I will be conducting an examination not dissimilar to the one you received from Theodora when you joined the clan.”
“You do not need to explain what you are going to do,” Arianrhod said.
“No, I doubt I do,” Mielikki replied. “However, each of you has been ill treated by your goddess and I want you to know that I do not think of you as any less than the full member of my clan that you are.”
Arianrhod gave her a puzzled look. ‘How has the goddess treated us ill?”
“Has she not always obviously favored the Sidhe over all of the other fey,” Mielikki asked quietly, “Has she not given the Sidhe gifts that she grants only grudgingly to the other fey?”
Arianrhod frowned. “The goddess is Sidhe,” she said in a tone that said what she was saying made perfect sense. “It is only right that she should favor them over the rest of us.” Several of the other goblins nodded.
“Perhaps,” Mielikki said. “I wear the appearance of a human, and humans who worship me are among my children, but all creatures that live in the forests are mine and I love and cherish each of them. Yes, each has its purpose and role to play in the unfolding of life, such as the rabbit that will feed the fox, but I love the rabbit and the fox equally and I would never cripple the rabbit just to make the fox’s hunt easier.” From the looks she was getting it was obvious that her words were not falling on fertile ground and she nodded. “Let me say instead that we are clan and I would never bring deliberate harm to my clanswomen and men. That I save for the outlanders who threaten us.” From the sudden grins she got, that had been understood.
“You will start with me,” Arianrhod said. “I have never had a child.”
Mielikki nodded and placed the palm of her right hand on Arianrhod’s forehead. Then she gently sent her magic into the goblin queen. A moment later she nodded and moved to the next goblin in line.
When she was done, she smiled at the goblins. “I wish to thank you for allowing me to examine you. Arianrhod, may I have a quick word before you go to training?” She moved to the side with Arianrhod and dropped her voice. “Who is the goblin male that is the third male from the left?”
Arianrhod glanced at the line. “That is Bleddyn.”
“This has nothing to do with what I was curious about, but he has a strong magic about him. I would suggest you have him tested and I believe he will prove to be capable of learning to be a wizard.”
“He has this aptitude that Iain mentioned?”
“He does. His mystical aura is as strong as some of the human wizards I have seen who became powerful mid-ranked members of the wizard’s guilds.”
Arianrhod glanced at Bleddyn again. “Would he be as strong as Iain?”
“He can become stronger than Iain is now, but his potential is that of a bonfire compared to the raging wildfire that is Iain’s potential.” She considered for a moment. “And that is the potential of what they call his formal magic. The magic that he is learning from Kerrik is not like that. That magic is, in many ways, like my magic and much more powerful than anything a formal wizard will be able to do. But Bleddyn could be the first goblin wizard in a long time, if he wishes to dedicate himself to the learning of magic.” She smiled when Arianrhod gave her an odd look. “I am not Iain and I believe I understand the hierarchy of the goblins within the clan better than Iain does. If you do what you are considering, you will have to be very tricksy.”
Arianrhod suddenly looked concerned. “What do you mean?”
“Instead of ordering Bleddyn to learn magic, order him to want to learn magic. Then, when he is asked why he is there for testing and lessons, he can say because he wants to learn magic and it will not be a lie.”
Arianrhod smiled. “Yes. However,” her smile faded, “I think Iain understands our ways at least as well as you do. I believe, however, that like the harem, unless someone comes to him with a complaint, he will allow us to police ourselves. Until then, I believe that Bleddyn will have a new obsession. If nothing else, he is not a front ranked warrior. Being a wizard will certainly make him a chosen breeding partner, which he has never been. Thank you for telling me about him.”
“The goblins are clan and if they grow stronger, so does the clan and so do I,” Mielikki said.
“Later, would you examine all of the goblins to see if any others might be wizards?”
Mielikki smiled. “I would be happy to.”
“Thank you. Did you learn what you wished to?”
Mielikki frowned. “I am still not sure if what I think is may truly be, so I will only say that I learned several things today when I examined the goblins. If any of these things will turn out to be useful is still to be seen.”
Arianrhod folded her arms. “What are you trying to discover?”
“It is not something that can be discovered,” Mielikki said. “And I am not sure that it is something that can be understood. And I don’t mean you can’t understand it. I am not sure if I can understand it. So I am seeking to increase the number of things that I know, so that I may perhaps understand some of the things that I currently do not.”
“Gods know everything.”
Mielikki smiled. “I am not fey nor am I cursed to be truthful to everyone. I can and will lie if I decide that it is necessary to do so. However, please believe me when I say this to you. No god knows everything. A god that knew everything would be able to supplant all of the other gods and reign alone. Any god that could supplant all of the others would do so because then he or she would never have anything to fear. Any god or goddess that claims or even infers to know everything is lying to you and it is for some advantage that god seeks to gain over you.”
“What about my goddess?”
“Arianrhod, without trying to insult your beliefs, do you not think that if your goddess had known that all of the fey would be wiped out except for Ygerna and who was going to commit this murder, do you not think she would have stopped him somehow or protected her children from extermination? Either she didn’t know what Eoghan was going to do or she allowed it out of callousness to the people who worshipped her. We draw a great deal of our power from our worshippers. I would never allow myself to be crippled that way if I could prevent it.” She smiled faintly. “And yet here I am, almost dead because I could not see the danger coming for me and mine.”
“I am sorry if my words caused you pain,” Arianrhod said quickly.
“Your words did not cause me pain, my sister,” Mielikki said soothingly. Her twee sent her a warning and she smiled. “Thank you for doing this but you have training soon.”
“You’re right.” Arianrhod quickly organized the other goblins and they ran off towards the training area. Mielikki watched them until they were out of sight and then vanished without a sound.
“Ygerna, may I have a few moments of your time?”
Tara paused in closing the door to Ygerna’s quarters and looked at her queen. “Lady?”
Ygerna nodded. “I will see her.”
The Dragoness nodded and stepped out of the way. “Enter.”
“Thank you, Tara,” Mielikki said as she entered the room. She’d never been in Ygerna’s quarters but was unsurprised to see that the Sidhe High Queen had a small suite similar to Iain’s. The furniture and decorations were different, but the layout of what she could see looked identical to Iain’s quarters. “I know,” she said to Ygerna, “that under the conventions of the Sidhe I am supposed to ignore the existence of your guards, but it seems rude not to be polite to her. If she or you are offended by my addressing her, I will apologize.”
Ygerna laughed quietly and motioned towards a bench. “I am not sure either, if it helps. Clan law is very fluid about that sort of thing and we are also trying to listen to the opinions of my guard, of which Tara is my alpha, so that they do not feel slighted during the transition. Unfortunately, according to the rules that Tara was raised to follow, she’s not supposed to have an opinion where I can hear it. Iain, however, is aware of this and consults with her and the others when they are off duty and not around me.” Her laugh faded. “And then there is your peculiar situation. Who are you here? How should I address you?”
“I have decided for the sake of simplicity,” Mielikki said as she sat down, “that it would be easiest if I set the rules for that. If I treat you as an equal, as I have already done, I expect you to treat me as an equal, so my name is sufficient.” She smiled. “After all, the only titles the clan recognizes are clan leader, maharani and various military titles. At the moment I should to be treated as what I am, which is a relatively powerful supernatural being.”
“I see,” Ygerna said with an approving nod. “So you are Mielikki. What use do you wish to put some of my time to?”
“I would like to scan you magically. I assure you that I will not seek to change anything about your living state, I do not seek to cast any other magic on you and that what I am asking to do will not harm you, your children or anyone else. I merely seek information. I would also like your help in getting your mother to acquiesce to a magical scan as well.”
Ygerna raised an eyebrow. “What is it you are looking for?”
“If I may be honest, I am not entirely sure.” Mielikki smiled when Ygerna’s other eyebrow rose to join the first. “I will ask this without intending to insult you, but I do not know what your educational level is. Do you know what a hypothesis is?”
Ygerna’s eyebrows scrunched together in a frown. “I do. Why?”
“Because right now I seek information so that I may, eventually, build a hypothesis. Right now I do not have enough information to even tentatively arrive at a hypothesis. My hope is that if I can learn enough that I may be able to derive a hypothesis and then test it. Right now, all I have is curiosity.”
“What are you curious about?”
Ygerna smiled. “Sex?”
Mielikki shook her head. “Reproduction, of which sex is just a small part.” She frowned. “Right now I am seeking to examine people who are pregnant, people who are not pregnant, people who have never been pregnant and people who have been pregnant but are not now pregnant. I will also desire to examine males who have gotten women pregnant and ones who have not, but that is proving more difficult as the goblins do not track males and the pregnancies they cause, leaving only Iain to examine since I wish to keep this within the confines of the clan, at least for the moment. You are now pregnant and have been pregnant in the past. As for why, I have no strong reason except that I have a feeling that something is not quite right. Therefore, I must first determine if this feeling may have some basis in reality and, if so, what may be done about it.”
All amusement had vanished from Ygerna’s face. “I have asked Ninhursag to join us.”
“I had hoped not to disturb the leadership of the clan with this as it may not prove to be significant.”
Ninhursag appeared. “What is it, Ygerna?”
Ygerna got up. “Mielikki has a feeling that something is not quite right and that it involves reproduction. She says that to determine if this feeling is valid or not, she needs to magically examine various women and men. I would like you to arrange for her to be able to scan every person in the clan.” She looked at Mielikki. “I know this isn’t what you’d asked for, but I once had a feeling that something was not quite right. I ignored it. That feeling persisted for a month, until the day that all of the fey in Europe except me suddenly died at the hands of the Usurper. Then that feeling ended. I realize that it sounds somewhat silly except for the fact that she is a goddess and this isn’t asking for very much.”
“This would be perfect,” Mielikki said, “The larger the sample, the more concrete any possible results. I just hadn’t dared to ask for it.”
“What do you think is wrong,” Ninhursag asked curiously.
“I am not sure that anything is,” Mielikki replied. “That is why I was hesitant to approach you. There may be nothing to this feeling.”
“Or there could be something important,” Ygerna said.
“That is also possible. This feeling could be because I have noticed something subconsciously and it hasn’t yet been brought to my conscious attention.”
“Well,” Ninhursag’s voice was thoughtful. “It isn’t really asking for much. I’ll get with April and we’ll set this up in groups for after breakfast. If we ignore the Sisterhood, you should be able to finish your scans in a week. Will you also wish to examine the children?”
“I do not see where their inclusion will be of help, but it will not cause harm,” Mielikki smiled suddenly. “And it will keep them from feeling left out of a clan activity.” Her smile vanished. “I wish to thank both of you for this.”
It was Ninhursag’s turn to smile. “Even if your bad feeling turns out to be nothing, what you’re asking for isn’t a lot of trouble and, if it turns out to be important, I’d be stupid not to help you determine that it is.”
“And that is why I asked her here,” Ygerna said with a bright smile.
“Monica said you wanted to talk to me?”
Iain looked up from where he’d been watching a game of Shogi between Yuko and Kasumi. He was supposed to play the winner. Considering that the two women had been playing the game for years and Iain was still learning the basics, he figured he’d be easy prey for the loser, much less whoever won. This made the disturbance welcome. “Good morning, Poppet, and, yes, I did want to talk to you.” He slid to his feet. “Ladies, if I’m not back in time to play whoever wins, you go ahead without me.”
Yuko didn’t respond to his statement while Kasumi glanced up at him and gave a brief nod before returning her attention to the board. She was on the defensive, but Iain suspected it was a feint and she was suckering Yuko into a disastrous series of moves that would ensure her win. She’d certainly done it to him before.
Poppet eyed the pair of spirit folk before turning to Iain. “What game is that?”
“It’s Shogi, or the Game of Generals. It’s commonly held to be a Japanese variant of chess.” He led her away from the game.
Poppet looked back. “It looked very intense. Is Kasumi any good at it?”
Iain chuckled. “She’s very good. She’s been playing with her harem members for twenty some odd years, after all. And her harem doesn’t let her win, especially not Ayame, who is scary good. Kerrik said that if she were recognized as human in Japan and a guy she’d be a highly ranked player.”
“Are you sure Kasumi plays this? I’ve never seen it before.”
Iain shrugged. “That’s not very surprising. Kasumi isn’t a pokegirl and since most of your family’s leisure activities were centered around the harem and Shikarou, she and her harem weren’t involved a lot of the time.”
Poppet frowned. “You might be right. Looking back, Branwyn was pretty jealous of the fact that Kasumi was independent of her control and had influence with Shikarou she felt should be hers. She tends to overcompensate at times like that and excluding Kasumi is relatively innocuous.”
“It’s only innocuous if you don’t look very closely at the situation.”
The Unicorn smiled “True, but Shikarou didn’t. Who is the other woman?”
“That’s Yuko. I found her camping on some property I bought in Tokyo and recruited her into the clan.”
“She isn’t a pokegirl or a human. Her mind is cloudy and hard to read.”
Iain stopped and turned to her. “Poppet, are we going to have to have the talk about being rude here?”
She had the grace to blush slightly. “I’m sorry. It’s hard not to try and peek.”
“That and you’re not used to being questioned on behavior, right? I mean, it hasn’t happened often in the last few hundred years, has it?”
For an instant he saw anger in her eyes and then it vanished as she gave a rueful chuckle. “True. I did manage to put myself in a position where I was the person in charge most of the time.”
“Anyway, I certainly didn’t ask you to come see me so I could waste your time with random conversation,” Iain said. He gestured at a rock. “You can sit if you want.” He leaned back against a nearby tree, shifting slightly back and forth to use the bark to rub an itch between his shoulder blades.
Poppet perched daintily on the rock and smiled warmly at him. “What did you want to discuss?”
“Someone took a long look at my stories and decided that I had an unreasonable crush on you and that an unscrupulous Unicorn could use it to manipulate me.”
Poppet’s eyes widened innocently. “Am I the unscrupulous Unicorn they were referring to?”
“Your amount of scruples does seem to vary greatly depending on the situation and who you are dealing with,” Iain noted dryly. “And the answer to your question is yes, you are the Unicorn they’re concerned will take advantage of me.”
“You know,” Poppet said, “I wasn’t flattered by some of the portrayals of me in your stories. The most irritating thing, of course, is that they were fairly accurate, which made me like them even less.” Blue eyes regarded him evenly. “They also made me like you even less.”
“I know. It’s probably also irritating that I know exactly who you are but I’m not afraid of you. I respect you, but I don’t fear you. You’re not a random or wanton murderess and I haven’t done anything severe enough to deserve your personalized attention.”
She smiled again. “It probably wouldn’t matter. I’ve heard that you should never go against Iain Grey when death is on the line.” Her smile widened when he looked surprised. “You did send us those movies for Christmas last year and I really liked The Princess Bride.” She winked. “I’d already read the book many years ago.”
“I’m glad you liked it. So, anyway, there’s this very pretty and rather unscrupulous Unicorn out there that my family is worried could manipulate me somehow, so they did what pokegirls do everywhere and took the appropriate steps to neutralize her influence.”
Poppet frowned. “Are you warning me that your family is planning to kill me and make it look like an accident?”
Iain shook his head. “With Kerrik around, that idea didn’t go very far.”
She nodded. “At least you’re honest about the fact that they did consider it.”
“Just like you and yours considered how to do away with us if we became a problem,” Iain replied evenly.
“True, but I’m certain you had plans to eliminate us too.”
“Not eliminate,” Iain said, “our plans were to neutralize the threat you presented. I have too many Celestials to just outright murder you all.”
“And Kerrik is watching,” Poppet said quietly.
“That too,” Iain replied. “But we decided to try and befriend you first. And, no, there were no plans that ended up with Ygerna and Kasumi living here and married to me.”
“I’m glad Ygerna is here,” Poppet said. “She never really had a place with us and I didn’t want Shikarou to have more bastards with her. He has too many casual lovers as it is.” She rubbed her eyes for a moment. “I miss Kasumi, but then that’s mostly because she’s been impossible to replace at the school. So if I’m not going to be executed and I doubt your family just wants to let me possibly manipulate you,” she smiled again, “and you’re warning me about this, what is going to happen?”
“My ladies went out and found someone to be your foil. Then they had me go and bring her into the family.”
She frowned. “A pokegirl?”
“I don’t understand. If I tried to manipulate you, what would a particular breed of pokegirl do to enhance your ability to resist me?”
“Not a breed, an individual.” Six Hundred stepped around the tree Iain had been leaning against. Where Poppet was wearing her traditional lightweight blue dress that fell to her knees, Six Hundred was wearing dark green yoga pants and a matching loose t-shirt along with black tennis shoes. “I was picked because I know the Poppet of this world very well indeed and Iain’s harem felt that with that knowledge I could keep both her and you from becoming nuisances to our family.”
Poppet’s eyes narrowed. “I can see that you’re a Unicorn like I am,” she broke off with a wince. “That hurt!”
“I am nothing like you,” Six Hundred smiled coldly at Poppet. “And even if you are three hundred years older than I am, obviously you didn’t spend that time becoming stronger than I am at psychic combat. Next time stay out of my mind or I’ll hurt you more. My name is Marguerite.” She took Iain’s hand possessively. “Marguerite Grey, but you knew of my analog as Six Hundred and she was your commander, just as I was the commander of Poppet Harris.”
Poppet was staring at her. “That’s impossible.”
Marguerite smirked at her. “You should know that around Iain, nothing is impossible. Now, I realize that you despised my analog and that Poppet Harris despised me because neither of you felt your talents were being properly appreciated and allowed free reign to blossom and flourish. I really don’t care. The war is over and we’ve all found the men we want, in spite of the Creator’s lies. I realize that James is the product of the sperm of an analog of your son and that you’ve adopted him as your grandson, so we’ll be seeing each other from time to time. That’s admirable and I don’t intend to try and interfere with your visits, but always remember that James is our son. I’ve learned a lot about the players in the world now and I realize that your husband is someone worthy of respect. I’ll grant him that.” Her smile vanished. “I also understand that Iain is a much better choice than Shikarou will ever be. I won’t share him with you. While you’re willing to fuck the same guy your daughter is, I’m not that accepting. Ryan is the only other Unicorn he’ll have in his family beside me. If you don’t challenge that, we won’t have any problems.” Her smile returned. “If you do, I’ll crush you. And I don’t care about Kerrik. If you die during your correction, I’ll be very apologetic to him as I point out that I knew you were powerful and I couldn’t hold back lest you kill me and that sometimes these things happen. I learned from reading Iain’s stories that he understands self-defense and will accept that line of reasoning if I use it as an excuse.”
“I saw you die,” Poppet said.
“First, it was my analog and, second, you saw what she wanted you to see. Neither of us died then or was even seriously hurt. It was deemed necessary by our Controllers that you and the others think she and I were dead so you could be reassigned to the battlefield. I don’t know why they decided that and, at the time, I didn’t question it.”
Poppet cocked her head. “And now?”
“I’ve read the site rip. What I learned from Iain and some of the other authors is that I should have been questioning everything. So now I do.” She glanced at Iain as her fingers tightened in his. “Him most of all.”
“Because in his head are the answers to almost any question I could ask and he won’t share them. I did some investigating into how writing is done and a writer does a lot of research into even the smallest things in a story. Most of them don’t appear in the story but help the writer to portray something in a particular manner. That means that for what I’ve read of his writings, there’s many times over that amount that he knows that he didn’t write, and he won’t share it with us.”
Poppet looked past her at Iain as a calculating look appeared in her eyes. “Is that true?”
“It’s too late,” Marguerite said. “He is mine now and rather definitely not yours. Besides, the only way you’d get him to tell his secrets to you is if you opened your womb to him.”
Iain winced. “Do you really have to go there?”
“I do,” Marguerite said, “if only so she does not. In three hundred years I will bear you the sons and daughters of the mingling of your blood and that of the Batch Six Unicorns. She shall never do so.”
Iain raised a hand as Poppet opened her mouth. “I know you love Shikarou and I know you wouldn’t do that, but” he glanced at Marguerite, “apparently, just like Branwyn did when she felt Dianthus had insulted Shikarou, Marguerite here feels the need to mark her property.” A smile appeared. “At least she didn’t pee on me.”
Poppet made a sound suspiciously like a giggle and shook her head. “She might have if it wouldn’t be too hard to take those pants off.”
Marguerite smiled slightly. “These come off very quickly for the right reasons. As for peeing on Iain, I had just gone to the bathroom not too long ago.”
Iain shook his head. “Anyway, I wanted to let you know about Marguerite joining my family and she decided to crash the meeting.”
“It is for the best,” Poppet said as she stood. “I would not have believed that she had survived any more than Poppet Harris will believe it when she finds out about Marguerite.” She flashed a smile. “And I won’t warn her beforehand, but I will inform Bellona and Shikarou of her presence.” The smile reappeared. “That way they won’t try to get me to manipulate you.” She nodded to Marguerite. “You have managed something impressive, if by accident. The Grey clan harem does not easily or often add to its ranks. You are very lucky to be here.” Her teeth bared in what could politely be called a smile. ‘But do not push that luck by challenging me. I have survived centuries of pokegirls, legendaries and humans and I remain unbowed by defeat. You would do well to remember that.” Her smile turned warm as she looked at Iain. “I’ll be back in a few days for James’ birthday. Monica said I could bring a present or two. Is that all right?”
“That’s fine,” Iain said.
“Good.” She looked back at Marguerite. “I have never wanted to leave my husband. I love him and he loves me. But Iain is my friend and will not let you threaten that friendship. He’s the father to my grandson and I will not allow you to interfere.” She nodded to Iain with another smile and vanished.
Marguerite turned to Iain. “Are you two really friends?”
He gave a light shrug. “She thinks we are. Eventually we probably will be, if she doesn’t stop trying to be my friend.”
Marguerite nodded and pulled her waist length braid around with her free hand to look at it. “Her hair is a lot longer than mine. None of us had hair like that. How does she do that?”
“Shikarou knows some magic that let him grow her hair longer. Her daughter has hair that long as well. If you’re interested, I can do the same for you.”
She released the braid as she shook her head. “I think I will decline. It’s already almost too long for training with the combat teams and if it were any longer you’d be repairing it daily. But does that mean Poppet doesn’t train regularly?”
“I don’t think any of the royal family does right now, outside of individual training they do as they feel like doing. For example, Dorothea probably still works out daily.”
‘That’s not the same as our training.”
Iain nodded. “You’re right, it isn’t. We train like a new clan does, which is for war. And since war is coming, possibly from the leagues and definitely from the ferals, it’s good that we do.”
Marguerite reached out and took his other hand as she peered into his eyes. “You always try to plan ahead if you can and you didn’t know your harem was going to find me. What plans did you have to neutralize Poppet if she tried to influence you?”
Iain smiled. “It doesn’t matter now. You’re here and I don’t regret bringing you into the family.”
She smiled back at him. “I’d like to know.” She blinked and her eyes went wide. “You were going to manipulate Poppet if she tried to manipulate you? You intended to coopt Poppet into your family?”
Iain smiled coldly. “Everyone thinks I have this unreasonable attraction to Poppet, remember? If she decided I did and if I really do, wouldn’t it make sense to lure her into making a mistake and since I just might know her mind better than she knows herself, wouldn’t it probably also not be that difficult to convince her that her place is here? And once she realized what was happening, Branwyn would have done everything she could to make sure that Poppet chose me instead of Shikarou, since Poppet is another person not under her thumb and she is definitely her mother’s daughter and has resented it from day one.”
“But why would you want her if you have me?”
“I didn’t know you existed and now that you’re mine, I’m not interested in Poppet at all. As for why I might have wanted her in the first place, she knows a lot that could be useful to us and it would stick a thumb in Shikarou’s eye. Now Poppet Harris is supposed to share what she knows about the mothballed bases and you’re here.”
The Unicorn eyed the spot where Poppet had been sitting. “Does she truly love her husband as much as she claims?”
“I didn’t think so or I wouldn’t have been planning to neutralize her the way I was,” Iain replied. “What clinched it for me is that Jamie and Graeme are the only children she’s had since she became a pokewoman and those aren’t of Shikarou’s blood. Those were from Jamie Harris, her first and truest love.”
“If she truly loved Shikarou she’d have had his children?”
“The fact that she hasn’t even though he’s very fertile suggests she’s been taking steps to keep it from happening in spite of the fact that they have sex regularly. You’d expect a child or two after twenty something years of sex between two fertile people unless someone is keeping it from happening. She got pregnant the first time she was inseminated with Jamie’s sperm. That suggests her fertility is fairly normal at minimum.”
Marguerite wrapped her arms around his neck and rubbed her nose gently against his. “You are going to be so much fun to work with,” she said with a purr in her voice. “I know the locations of all of the bases the Unicorns in my batch were stationed and I’ve been to all of them, so I can teleport there.”
Iain grinned. “Awesome. And once we get Mrs. Harris’ list we’ll compare the two since she might have been sent to other bases that you don’t know about after you faked your death.”
Marguerite sneered slightly. “I doubt that.”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “So you know about the Yamaduts and where they are?”
She frowned. “What?”
“Scott started building a series of bases on some large asteroids that he intended to slingshot into Earth if he lost to destroy all of the life he could. We’ve found one already and it has data which suggests there were others, which we’re looking for. If you know where they are it would help a lot.”
“I never heard of that program,” she said slowly.
Iain’s voice was gentle. “Then it could be that there are other bases that you know nothing about, right?”
Her cheeks reddened, and she looked away. “I feel so stupid.”
“Don’t,” Iain said quietly. “You’re not stupid. You’re proud of what you do know, and you are a Batch Six Unicorn.” Marguerite looked at him curiously as he continued. “They tend to be arrogant, but I don’t think a little arrogance is bad. But if you’d thought about it you’d have realized there was no way you could have been read into everything that Scott was doing. Hell, sometimes I wonder if he knew everything that his Controllers and everyone else were doing in his name.”
“You’re not upset?”
“I am not.” Iain chuckled. “When I do get upset with you, you will have no problem knowing that I am. But I don’t stay upset with the women I care about for very long.”
Her eyes searched his. “Do you care about me?”
“Thanks to our delta bond you already know that I do.”
“I do, but I like hearing you say it.” She glanced over where Poppet had been sitting. “Are you going to carry out your plans and have her decide to seduce you and become a Grey?”
“I have you,” Iain said. “I don’t need her anymore.”
“Why,” she asked in a teasing voice.
“You’re better than she is.”
She smiled. “I am.”
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
Marguerite - Unicorn
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
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