This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copywritten. Everything in this work is mea culpa. 

            This work is the property of Kerrik Wolf (saethwyr@ (SPAM) Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.

            You should not read this work if you are under the age of legal consent wherever you reside. This work may or may not contain any and/or all of the following: death, cannibalism, dismemberment, violent acts, implied sex, explicit sex, violent sex, rape, blasphemy (depending on your religion), BDSM, torture, mimes, necrophilia and just about anything unwholesome that you could consider.

            Feedback is encouraged. I enjoy hearing from people. Positive feedback will be appreciated, cherished and flaunted in front of people. Negative feedback will be appreciated, cherished and listened to, that I might continue to grow. Flames will give me a good laugh. Feedback may be delivered to: saethwyr@(SPAM) Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.


Loose Threads

Sixty Eight


            Mielikki paused and glanced at Ninhursag. “Why is the herd here? I have no need to examine them.”

            “One of the mares heard about what we were doing for the rest of the clan,” the Elfqueen said in a low voice. “She went to Golden Cloud, who immediately went to Iain and insisted that the herd be included. Like the inclusion of the children, it keeps them from feeling left out.”

            “I hadn’t considered that and you are correct. Then examine them I shall.”

            Ninhursag nodded. “I’ll tell Golden Cloud to line them up.” She strode off.

            The examinations went quickly and soon the last of the unicorns had trotted off to the morning graze. Ninhursag looked at Mielikki. “With one obvious exception, that’s everyone.”

            “I asked Iain that he refrain from being examined with the others,” Mielikki said with a chuckle. “I suspect I will discover things about him that he will not want the others to be aware of and I do not wish to accidentally reveal his secrets.”

            The Elfqueen flashed a toothy grin. “You’ll let me know what you find out if you can?”

            “Rest assured that I will, my sister.” Mielikki reached out with her twee. Iain, it’s time for your examination. Please meet me at the door to the Theodora.

            I’ll be there as soon as I get done washing dishes. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.

            “Has Iain lost some bets,” Mielikki asked Ninhursag.

            “Not that I am aware of, why?”

            “It seems he ends up washing dishes a lot more than a regular rotation should require.”

            Ninhursag’s grin returned. “He volunteers. He feels that there are a lot of chores that he either cannot or is not allowed to do and so he tries to make up for it by gathering eggs with whoever is assigned to it and doing other simple chores like washing dishes and cleaning fish so we can focus on other things.”

            Mielikki smiled slowly. “That is very clever of him.”

            Ninhursag frowned. “Why would that be clever? It’s considerate, but clever?”

            “It lets him spend regular time with Kasumi and her harem, since she insists on collecting the eggs and they insist on guarding and helping her, and it lets him spend regular time with Heltu and her court where he can monitor that they’re getting enough attention to keep from going feral, especially since Heltu has proven reluctant to schedule the proper amount of time for her subordinate Elves with him. I suspect that Iain volunteers to do other chores for the same reason, which is to carefully spread the time he spends with the clan’s women to include all of them in whatever amounts each individual requires.”

            Ninhursag frowned and looked thoughtful for several seconds before looking surprised. “I think you’re right. That would explain a lot and I hadn’t even considered it.” She chuckled. “That sneaky man proves his worth yet again.” She shook her head ruefully. “I am so glad this world doesn’t have any equivalent to Sadie Pokens. We would be inundated by free and escaping pokegirls wanting to join the harem. If you don’t mind, I think I need to have a talk with April, Allison and Silver about this before everyone separates for the day’s activities.” She hurried off as Mielikki turned and walked back into the building and to the door to the ship.

            When Iain showed up, she smiled at him. “As I said, it is time for your examination. Afterwards I want to share with you what I have learned and what I suspect. At least for the moment, I wish this information only to be shared between myself, you, Theodora and Daya, for our minds are almost impervious to espionage. Therefore, I would like you to take me to a secure place that is also far from Earth.”

            Iain frowned and then shrugged. “The Titan facility would probably be best then. There’s a room there as secure as my lab and none of Kerrik’s family have ever been there.”

            Mielikki blinked as her twee told her what the Titan facility was and where it was located. “Technology has some wonders that seem to grow more impressive as I face new ones. I would like to see this place.”

            “Then I’ll give you a quick tour and we can watch Saturn rise before we go to the secure room.” He gestured her forward. “It’s door seven and ladies first.”

            Mielikki regarded him curiously. “Do you truly wish to regard my backside in a sexual fashion as you do the others or is this merely politeness or a habit?”

            Iain chuckled. “It’s all of the above.”

            “Why do you seek to consider me sexually?”

            “You’ve already said that by the time you’re ready for a relationship, you and I will know if we’re compatible. That means eventually the question of whether I find you sexually attractive will come up. I see no reason not to answer that question sooner than later.”

            She smiled and headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder at him as she opened it. “I am aware that you have wide tastes in physical beauty. I am also aware that I fall safely within those limits.”

            “And you should also be aware that the day I don’t take the chance to watch a pretty woman I’m probably dead.”

            “I will remember that should the question of your state of living come up.” She stepped through.


            The door slid shut and Theodora looked at Iain. “Security is set. This room is as secure as I can make it without surrounding it with the concentric rings that surround your lab and exercise room. We should be safe from any kind of observation.”

            Iain turned to Mielikki. “What do I do for this scan?”

            “Stand still.” She placed her hand on his forehead and closed her eyes. A few minutes later her eyes opened. “You have augmented your fertility?”

            “I increased my sperm production as well as everything that goes with it,” he said. “I have several orgasms a day and if the quantity of sperm drops too much, someone might get their feelings hurt. It’s happened before.”

            “That may explain a lot,” she said. “Please sit.”

            Iain did, reaching for the tea trolley that sat next to the table. “How would you like your tea?”

            She chuckled as she sat down on the other side of the table. “As I always do, Iain, no cream and no sugar. You are not English or Irish. Why do you obsess over tea as much as April does?”

            “I’m Texan and we drink tea a lot too, both hot and iced, which April thought was some kind of heresy until she moved to Texas. Now she’s a convert to iced tea.”

            She nodded. “Let me begin. First, I want to give some news that you should construe as a warning about the goblins.”

            “A warning, huh?”

            “Are you aware that goblin descent is strictly matrilineal?”

            “I am.”

            “Are you aware that it is so strict that the male who sired the child isn’t recorded or considered important?”

            “No, I wasn’t. Is that the warning?”

            She shook her head. “The warning is that you will want to remember that because it means that to goblins, if children from different goblin women are sired by the same goblin male, they are not considered to be related unless the goblin women who bore them are related.”

            Iain stopped lifting his mug to stare at her. “That’s different.”

            “As they adopt more clan rules that will change since clan descent is matrilineal, but under clan law the male’s contribution is recorded and it has a factor in future relationships. Still, at the moment that is their belief. It means you should be very cautious in attending a breeding cycle as the women you impregnate may not want to associate their children with each other and they are unlikely to want you involved with the child’s life.”

            “I’ll certainly keep that in mind.”

            “Now I would like to start my explanation with some science.” Mielikki smiled at him. “Which is why I want Theodora to explain what we’ve discovered.”

            Iain turned to the two holograms. “Well?”

            “Because of a question Mielikki had,” Theodora said, “I ran DNA comparisons between all of the goblins, Ygerna, Gormlaith, Kasumi and all of the other fey and spirit folk DNA samples I have. That includes all of the spirit folk that we’ve captured or killed while dealing with Kasumi’s family as well as samples from the Wolf family. According to mitochondrial DNA, all supernatural Terran beings except you and Caintigern share a common ancestor from about three million years ago and have since drifted apart and into the various species and categories that we use.”

            Iain looked at the three women in the room. “Importance?”

            Daya smiled. “It’s important because, according to evolutionary law, reproductive strategies are established very early and only change significantly because of extreme survival stress or genetic drift associated with severe isolation. That means it is logical to presume based on evolutionary law, as well as modern sampling, that the reproduction methods of all of the Terran fey and spirit folk are similar in nature. In almost all cases they are either viviparous, in which the eggs develop into offspring inside the mother’s body or they are ovoviviparous, which means that the eggs develop inside the mother’s body and hatch soon after being laid with little, if any, further development.”

            Iain frowned. “But goblins only breed at the equinoxes and solstices while Sidhe are fertile and capable of breeding all year.”

            “That is a breeding strategy,” Daya said. “Breeding strategies are only part of reproductive strategy.”

            Iain looked around the room. “Why is this important?”

            “Now we get to the magical part of the discussion,” Theodora said. “Which means it’s Mielikki’s turn.”

            “What must be remembered is that all of the fey and spirit folk are supernatural creatures,” Mielikki said. “This means that magic is a fundamental part of their existence and therefore it cannot be ignored in any hypothesis regarding them. Unfortunately, inorganic intelligences are not well equipped to detect or analyze magic.”

            That will change when I get my puppet, Theodora said to Iain through his twee. It’s one of the reasons I want one so badly.

            And Daya?

            She already knows and wants one too.

            That’s what I figured. Iain refocused on Mielikki. “What have you found?”

            “Several things,” she admitted wryly. “Some of them surprised me, and some of them are merely unsubstantiated thoughts until verified or refuted when the two Danu deliver the bones of their dead to us.”

            “They already did,” Iain said. “Well, the first shipment of them, at least. It’s about a million samples.”

            “I wasn’t allowed to tell you about them,” Theodora said. “You didn’t have a need to know.”

            “Have you done age determinations on them yet?”

            “It’s in progress,” Daya reported. “We’re building a new facility for the cloning and testing at the L5 point. Considering how many samples we were given and the extra manufacturing capacity we have now that the work needed to rescue me is complete, a new purpose-built science and research station will take only a month or so. When that comes online we expect testing speed to increase factorially. It will also help to boost the cloning of animals since it’s independent of Theodora or me and has its own parasite complement so it won’t require either of us to come close to Earth when ready to deliver a load of animals for release.”

            “I suspect,” Mielikki said, “that in all of the different species of fey you will find a particular time period when a lot of them died suddenly and violently, if that can be determined. You may also find that there are many more Sidhe samples than the other fey races and that some of their dead may be a great deal older than the oldest of the other fey races.” She looked at Iain. “It’s interesting to me that both the Sidhe and the goblins are roughly equally intelligent but only the Sidhe create written records while the records of the goblins are oral and don’t go back nearly as far as the ones of the Sidhe, even though the goblins are immortal just as the Sidhe are and they share a written language with the Sidhe. I believe that at one time they did keep written records, perhaps in a language unique to them, and later were forbidden to keep written records and any that they had were destroyed.”

Iain raised an eyebrow. “Reasoning?”

            “Both Danu goddesses are the goddess of all of the fey but they are pure Sidhe and favor the Sidhe over all other fey. That usually only happens when gods win wars against other gods. I think that the various fey races had their own gods once, possibly in a single pantheon, but that they were killed or were driven to another dimension or even fled elsewhere or just left, leaving only Danu. Since gods can be resurrected by their worshippers, if devout enough, she then removed the evidence that there were ever other gods, suppressed their religions and so she became the goddess of all of the fey, with her primacy assured.”

            “Does Danu forbid the goblins from keeping written records,” Iain asked.

            Mielikki nodded. “According to Arianrhod, Danu has set forth that books are only for the Sidhe. Interestingly, she believes that the fact the Sidhe use books is a weakness of theirs. Becoming clan will change the goblin’s opinion on writing, but I suspect you’re going to get a great deal of resistance over goblins writing books or anything even partially permanent.”

            Iain looked at Theodora and back at Mielikki. “We’re already seeing it and it does appear to be cultural.”

            “That, however, has nothing to do with the reproduction question I had,” Mielikki said. “The reason I wanted Theodora to compare the genetics of spirit folk and fey is because I’ve examined both. I have examined Yuko and I can see the curse that was laid on her.”

            “Can you break it?”

            Mielikki smiled. “You prefer precision, do you not?”

            “I do.”

            “Then there is only one way to break a curse, and that is to kill the cursed person or destroy the cursed object. However, you were asking if I could remove her curse. I cannot. I do believe, however, that I can teach you how to and that you can remove it.”

            “It doesn’t involve me having sex with Yuko, does it?”

            “It does not,” Mielikki said reassuringly. “What is important for my question is that she is cursed to be infertile. That means I can see what a curse like that would do to her reproductive system, which means since the spirit folk and fey are related, I can compare the two and tell you that I am certain that the fey in our clan are not cursed to be infertile, which only makes sense. As a point of fact, none of our fey are cursed at all.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “Why does it make sense?”

            “It makes sense because you cannot yet remove a curse of infertility, either by design or by accident, and yet Ygerna is pregnant by you. I finally realized that was what was bothering me. If the fey are cursed with infertility it should be impossible for her to be pregnant. And since she became pregnant while her goddess Danu was still on Three and the Danu of this world wasn’t interested in her at that time, there is no reason to believe that any curse had been lifted specifically for her. Finally, for a god or goddess who checks, curses leave a mystical residue for a few years after their removal and Ygerna shows no sign of that, but perhaps her curse had been removed after the rest of the fey were destroyed by Eoghan. However, Gormlaith shows no signs of any curse.”

Daya frowned. “But Danu said that she’d made the fey infertile as punishment for straying from her worship.”

Mielikki nodded. “And she can lie and you can’t tell if she does. No god would deliberately cripple herself and yet Danu supposedly did so because her children stopped worshipping her correctly. I think she doesn’t know why the fey are not fertile anymore and I think she just took the opportunity to take credit to weld the fey more strongly to her since they believe she can reverse it at any time and let them have children again.” She drained her cup and offered it to Iain. “May I have more?” He took it and she leaned back in her chair. “I have been studying ley lines. What is a ley line, Iain?”

            He glanced up at her as he filled her cup. “A simple explanation is that it’s a line of energy that comes up from underground, travels a bit and goes back underground. It is, of course, a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the basics of one.”

            “What kind of energy is it?”

            He frowned. “It’s magical energy.”

            “Ley lines don’t exist in Faerun, from which I came to the forest. Ley lines also don’t exist on the world that the forest and I came here from.”

Iain shook his head. “That’s not entirely true. All worlds have ley lines but on ones with a higher magical background they’re usually deep underground and harder to detect. I know Tirsuli have documented ley lines on magical worlds and Kerrik found some on a Faerun that he visited.”

Mielikki cocked her head. “That could be. I had not looked for them on either world. However, for this discussion it isn’t important. I think that ley lines are the way that a world conserves magical energy. I believe that at one time this world had a much higher background of magical energy and that the ley lines are where that energy is stored today. I also think that a higher magical background is essential for all supernatural beings native to this world to successfully reproduce and the goblin current breeding behavior of seasonal cycles proves I may be right.”

            Iain frowned. “I don’t understand.”

            “Why do wizards from this world have special magical ceremonies on the equinoxes and solstices?”

            Iain gave her a puzzled look for several seconds and then his eyes widened. “It’s said that the magic of the earth is more powerful then.”

            “It is, and I think that the goblins evolved or restructured their society to take advantage of that to keep reproducing for as long as they could because the background count is higher on those days and, once, it was high enough for them to get pregnant when they couldn’t the rest of the year. Eventually even that didn’t work as more magic went into the ley lines and the background dropped below a critical threshold.”

            Theodora eyed Iain and then Mielikki. “So why is Ygerna pregnant? Is the magical background higher around our house?”

            Mielikki smiled. “It is not. I believe that Iain is the reason that she’s pregnant and not entirely for the obvious reason that his sperm fertilized her eggs.” She looked at him. “You say you have boosted your sperm production, but what I suspect is that when you did so, you infused your sperm with your magic and that this magic was powerful enough for your sperm to protect Ygerna’s eggs from the low magic around it. It may also explain why Kasumi became pregnant so quickly, although there is another consideration in that both of you carry the blood of dragons and that might play a role in her pregnancy as well. If I were to examine a fresh sample of your sperm I could be certain whether or not it has been infused with magic, but the outcry that I was using such as an opportunity to become your lover would run rampant through your family in seconds.”

            Iain chuckled. “Only pokegirls could think that me masturbating into a cup could make us lovers.”

            Daya laughed. “They would presume that she would masturbate or otherwise stimulate you to get the sample. It is what they would do, after all.”

            “As you know, Daya is correct,” Mielikki said. “However, I would like a sample of your sperm to test. It must be relatively fresh, but I do not require it immediately after it is produced.”

            “Can he have one of his pokegirls collect it,” Theodora asked. “And if so, is some saliva acceptable with the sample?”

            Mielikki chuckled. “Yes and yes. Pokegirl saliva is not inherently magical.” She grinned when Iain frowned. “I suspected that this might happen and did some testing from the saliva on some glasses I borrowed from breakfast a few days ago. The glasses have since been cleaned and returned.” Her grin faded. “And because of the possibility that your sperm has magic infused in it is why I wanted to have this discussion here, where the goblins, Ygerna and Gormlaith could not hear it. They venerate and worship Danu, and so Danu can know what they know. She must want to know something and must actively look in their minds for it, but if it is there and she looks, she can usually find anything in their minds. And since you may be concerned about me doing the same to you, I have tested this ability and I cannot know what you do. It appears to be a side effect of your impressive mental defenses. Also, neither Danu should be able to gather information from your mind for no matter what they say, while as a supernatural being, you are fey but you do not worship either of them.”

            “It is also likely that if the goblins knew of this, they might try to drag Iain into their next breeding cycle,” Daya pointed out.

            “Might?” Iain made a face. “Let’s not pretend they won’t try something if they think I can give them kids.” He rubbed his eyes. “So what do we do? Do I have to move them to the world of the forest when it’s time for their breeding cycle?”        

            “I believe long term exposure to a higher magical background environment would be more conducive to their reproductive health. However, you are overlooking the bigger problem,” Mielikki said. “As soon as our goblins start turning up pregnant, one or both Danu goddesses will arrive to try to collect them, demand the same thing for their fey or both. To protect our goblins we will have to find a way to make it possible for their foundlings to one day have children too.”

            Iain snorted. “Maybe we could get both Danu goddesses and their kids to move to Eight forever.” Mielikki gave him an amused look and he shrugged. “I can still hope for an easy solution.”

            “You may,” she agreed.

            “Ley lines are magic storage,” Theodora said. “Can they be used to increase the background magic locally?”

            “As I believe they hold the magic of this world that was once free everywhere, I believe they should. However, I have been investigating that and so far the answer is that they cannot. The problem I have discovered in the ley lines that I have visited is that every ley line that I have seen has been twisted by either nonhuman wizards, human mages or gods. I believe when they change a ley line it locks the magic inside it and cannot be used to add to the local magic. It is possible that a ley line that hasn’t been manipulated may serve to do so, and I will continue examining them in the hopes of finding one that hasn’t been touched yet.”

            “Can I help you look for ley lines,” Iain asked.

            “I am a goddess, Iain. We are drawn to magic. Because of the low magic on this world and the high magic in a ley line, I can know where every ley line on this world is. If necessary, I will visit each of them, but I fear that any that I can reach will have been twisted by others. Still, I will examine every one of them to help my clan.”

            “You need a ley line that hasn’t been touched by people,” Theodora said. “Do you think that a ley line that is untouched will be different from one that has been manipulated by someone?”

            “I think so,” Mielikki said hesitantly. “I don’t know if I truly think this or I merely hope for it to be so. It would be very convenient if it were true and, in some ways, it could be that I, like Iain, am hoping for a simple solution.”

            Theodora nodded and looked at Iain. “She needs to know we have untouched ley lines for her to visit.”

            “We do?”

            The inorganic intelligence nodded once more “The extraterrestrial ones.”

            “Ah.” Iain turned to Mielikki. “We have found ley lines on Mars, detected them on Venus and Io and we suspect they exist on Mercury. I also suspect I’ll find them on Luna, but a mapping program of the moon detected several stations scattered over the far side and two on the near side. We don’t know if they’re manned, but most of them have an energy signature of some kind. Not only are we cautious about landing there because of it, it also means that someone may have manipulated a particular ley line, which means it would be useless for what you want it for.” Iain frowned. “It could be that ley lines between Earth and Luna interconnect since they were both once the same planet and that might be how the Pleiades Group is getting around.” He shook his head as if clearing cobwebs from it. “Not important right now. Do you want to go to Mars and look at the ley lines there?” He realized that she was looking at him with an expression of amusement. “What?”

            “You say that so easily, as if going to another planet is completely ordinary.”

            Iain chuckled. “I’m sure I could come up with a long list of things you take for granted that would flabbergast me. Going to another world isn’t completely ordinary, but I’ve been to Mars before. We have a refueling station in orbit and it has shuttles we can take to the surface.” His eyes unfocused for an instant. “I have training in an hour but if you think this is an emergency I can tell April that something has come up.”

            “This is not an emergency,” Mielikki said. “When can we go?”

            “Tomorrow afternoon around 1400? I’m free from then until after dinner, although there will be questions if I skip a meal.”

            She nodded. “Where should I meet you?”

            “We’ll meet at 1400 in the Sabine House at the door to the Theodora.” He got up. “I’ll walk you back to the Sabine House.” He stopped and laughed suddenly. “You’re right, you know.”


            “We are somewhere around a billion and a half kilometers from Earth but if we take a walk of less than a half a kilometer and go through a couple of doors we’ll be back in Texas. And we take that for granted.” He shrugged. “But as the only other response that seems reasonable is freaking out about it, taking it for granted but still being cautious is probably safest for our mental health if nothing else. We did install those doors just for this reason and so we don’t have to take a four day trip to get to Mars.” He gestured at the door. “After you.”

            She got up with a smile. “Is this more of proving that you are not dead, Iain?”

            He smiled. “In Texas and in the south in general it’s considered polite to let the lady go first. However, I will admit that there is something intriguing about watching an attractive woman walk, but it doesn’t matter if she’s walking towards me or away from me.”

            “I will remember that.” She turned and gracefully headed for the door.

            Iain looked at Theodora and Daya. “Thank you for taking the time to attend this meeting, ladies.”

            Daya smiled at him. “May I have a puppet?”

            “As long as you understand I have no plans to go back in time and find your historical counterpart so you can harvest her DNA, yes.”

            “That isn’t necessary since Theodora has a great deal of DNA collected from Berber women in and around that part of the world. No one knows what Daya looked like, so I’ll make her Berber and fashion her body in a form that you’ll find attractive.”

            Iain looked surprised. “Theodora has Berber DNA?”

            “Prometheus is dealing with an epidemic of typhoid in Morocco and another in the West Bank in Israel,” Theodora said. “DNA samples are taken of each corpse and everyone who receives a vaccine shot. It’s part of my program of building as comprehensive a DNA database as possible if the clan is lost in time and space.”

            “Who asked Prometheus to get involved in Morocco? There’s nothing resembling a unified government there.”

            “The Gothic League approached Prometheus via email and they’re paying for the vaccinations. It’s cheaper for them than trying to contain the otherwise huge spillover of infected people from Morocco into southern Spain.”

            “It is certainly an odd world we live in.” He turned and hurried to catch up with Mielikki.


            Mielikki turned back to Iain as she pulled the vest closed over her t-shirt, carefully lining up the seals. “Now what?”

            Iain ran a finger up the line where the vest came together and the pressure seal closed. The vest turned from light gray to a pale green and the diagnostic display on the left breast lit up. He glanced at it. “Now activate the belt.”

            She touched the front of her belt and the pale amber forcefield popped into existence around her. “Why doesn’t your suit have a vest like mine?”

            Iain activated his belt as he read the display on her chest. “I am certified to use EVA suits. You are not and, until you are, you get the tourist version of it. The vest allows me to remotely read your vitals and locate you even if you and your twee stop talking to me. It also won’t let you turn your forcefield off unless I agree.”

            Her eyebrows rose. “You think I need you to keep me safe?”

            “I think,” Iain said as he activated the inner airlock door, “that you are not certified in that suit’s emergency or regular operation, that you are not comfortable using technological items, that you are my friend and that you are a member of my clan.” He looked at her as the door cycled open. “I know you need to be kept safe. This isn’t Earth and the rules you follow in a breathable atmosphere and standard gravity do not apply here.”

            “What would happen if I refused to wear it,” she asked him curiously.

            “We’d go back to the station and you won’t be going for any walks out here.” He looked back at Heather, who was wearing a standard forcefield suit like his. “Ready?”

            “I am. All systems are within normal operational parameters. Status check.”

            “All systems are operating normally.” He looked at Mielikki. “Are you ready to do this?”

            She nodded. “Yes, and I will follow your instructions.”

            “Good. Everyone into the airlock.” Once inside he pressed a button and a forcefield sprang up where the inner lock door was and the lock pumped down to vacuum. Then the outer lock opened and another forcefield appeared where it had been. “Mielikki, as you requested, we’ve landed about a kilometer and a half from the ley line and we’ll walk there while Theodora pilots the shuttle behind us so we can get inside if we need to. Fortunately there isn’t a dust storm going on right now. Stay close.” He stepped outside, the forcefield of his suit passing through the lock’s forcefield.

            Mielikki followed him, stopping to look around at the reddish soil and rocks around them. Abruptly she turned and pointed. “Is the ley line this way?”


            “I can feel the magic from it.”

            Iain blinked. “Is that a good sign?”

            “I don’t know yet, but compared to the ley lines on Earth, it is certainly different. While I know where they all are, I couldn’t sense their local magical presence until I was almost inside them.” She looked at him. “I believe I agreed to follow you but you are not moving.”

            He smiled. “The gravity is a third of Earth’s and your forcefield will protect you, but a fall can still hurt. Let’s go and sing out if you want to stop for any reason. Heather, stay close.”

            The blonde Elfqueen nodded. She had left her living bow and quiver on the station and instead carried a GAR 15 and pistol. While not happy about it, she understood that if her bow or quiver got away from her here for any length of time, it might not survive. There was no way she was going to chance that happening to her weapons.

            Iain set a strong pace, but not one that was punishing as they picked their way around rocks. Because of the terrain, which was powdered dust that puffed up at every step and acted like walking through loose sand, it was slow but steady going. After ten minutes he looked back at Mielikki. “Well?”

            “The magic around us is growing stronger as we travel. It bodes well for what I hoped to find.”

            “The question after that is if a ley line can be used to increase the local magic background, how do we do it with the ley lines on Earth?”

            “I have an idea about that,” she admitted. “But it will involve your assistance.”

            “If it helps the goblins and our other future fey clanswomen, you have it.”

            “The fact that it will also help others around the world isn’t important to you, is it?”

            “Only in that by doing so we’ll protect our people from the two Danu goddesses. Otherwise, I could care less.” He smiled and started walking again. “I know you’re a goddess of good. If you can’t deal with the fact that I’m who I am, you should probably fire me as your priest and find someone else.”

            “I am the goddess of the forest and its inhabitants. The forest is neither good nor evil. I knew what you were like when I asked you to be my priest,” she said from behind him. “You could be evil, but you are not. You are like the wolf. It does what it must for itself and its pack and, if that benefits the elk too, it doesn’t concern itself except in knowing that means there will be elk later when it is hungry.”

            “Works for me.”

            “It also works for me,” Mielikki admitted, “since I am part of your pack.”

            They walked for another few minutes before Mielikki called a halt. “While you feel I need protected, you and Heather are mortal and so I am concerned about your presence here. Are you well?”

            “I despise this place,” Heather said. “Nothing lives around us. It reminds me of Zombabe Glasgow.” She held out a hand towards Iain. “Canteen.” He passed it over and she took a deep drink before capping it and handing it back. “And the air is too dry.”

            Iain offered the canteen to Mielikki. “The air is coming from your belt. The forcefield protects you from high velocity things and the radiation around us. Since you’re not familiar with radiation poisoning, I’d rather not experiment to see if higher radiation levels can harm an inherently magical being like yourself.”

            She took the canteen and stared at it for several seconds. “This is a decanter of endless water.”

            “Not quite,” Iain replied. “It is a decanter, but its lemonade.”

            She opened it and sniffed the contents. “This is impossible.”

            “It’s not my fault,” Iain had a broad smile. “There’s a canon published series of adventures from the Greyhawk universe that had a decanter of endless lemonade in it. I suggested it to Dominique when she was working on gear for us and she found a way to make it work. It means there is a demi-elemental plane of pretty much everything, including lemonade.” He shrugged. “It also means there’s a demi-elemental plane of flowers and another of brick, but the bricks are probably a juxtaposition of Earth, Water and Fire. I carry it because it helps with electrolytes as well as hydration and everyone worries about my health.” He tapped a second canteen on his belt. “This one is water.”

            “Don’t tell Ninhursag about the flowers one,” Heather warned. “She’ll want to go there and find new flowers.”

“She might change her mind when I tell her about vampire roses and the other dangerous plants we might encounter there.”

            Heather grinned. “She may not.”

            “I don’t know how to get there.” He looked at Mielikki. “Can I have the canteen back?”

            She took a long drink and recapped it before handing it back. “Does it always have ice in it?”

            “Yes.” He clipped it to his equipment belt. “Let’s get moving. Is the magic still getting stronger?”

            “It is. It is stronger than any I felt on Earth except in the middle of a ley line. You can’t feel it?”

            “If I could, would I be asking you?”

            “You might be checking to see if it felt as strong to me as it does to you.”

            “I might, but I’m not.” He frowned. “Is there a unit of magical energy?”

            “No, there isn’t. Technological societies like putting things in units, not magical ones.”

            “I’ll bet your priests counted the gold coins in the donation box and were upset if they didn’t weigh the correct amount. That requires units of measure to determine.”

            Heather laughed at the expression on Mielikki’s face. “I know that look very well. She wants to hit you.”

            “I am afraid he’d break if I did and that I might enjoy it,” Mielikki muttered.

            Iain flashed a quick grin. “I still don’t think it’s me. Women are just weird.”

            “It’s you,” Mielikki said firmly. Heather giggled, and she smiled at the Elfqueen. “See, she knows it’s you as well.”

            “It’s usually Iain’s fault,” Heather said.

            “It is,” Iain admitted. “At least that’s what everyone tells me.” He came to an abrupt halt. “Well, that’s a steep drop.” The women joined him to see he was standing on the edge of a twenty meter cliff that fell almost straight down. At the bottom was a jumble of large rocks.

            Heather frowned. “We don’t have climbing gear. Do you want me to teleport down, climb down or do you think we can safely jump?”

            “I think,” Iain said as he gestured behind them, “we’ll take the shuttle that’s been following us. Mielikki has already found that the magic is growing stronger as we get closer. We’ll stop a couple of times on the flight to see how much stronger she feels it’s getting but I don’t see any reason to walk the rest of the way.” He winked. “Especially since you two are just picking on me now.” He watched the shuttle as it settled silently down behind the women, its airlock already open and waiting. “And our ride is here. Everyone carefully back away from the cliff and turn around slowly. I don’t want to find out the hard way that the cliff face is just waiting to collapse when we do something stupid.”

            After they’d boarded, the shuttle lifted off again and a few minutes later touched down once more. Mielikki looked around, her eyes wide. “Are we inside the ley line?”

            “No, when I was landing I could see it about a hundred meters from where we are now,” Iain said as he cycled the airlock open.

            “The magic permeates the shuttle and is already stronger than I’ve ever felt except inside a wild magic area,” she reported. “You can feel this, can’t you?”

            “No. It feels normal to me.”

            “I can feel it,” Heather said. “Iain just doesn’t seem to be sensitive to magic like we are.”

            “That doesn’t make sense,” Mielikki said. She peered closely at Iain. “The magic doesn’t touch you. It stops just before reaching your skin.” She reached out and ran her hand over his arm. “It is being sucked inside you?” Her voice was questioning and concerned at the same time. “I don’t understand.”

            “Oh, crap. Give me a second.” Iain closed his eyes. “There, better?” He blinked. “That is a powerful magical field. It makes my skin tingle.”

            Mielikki was watching him closely. “Now the magic is touching you. What is this?”

            “I turned off my absorption field.”

            Her eyebrows rose. “You absorb magic?”

            “When I was getting started in my studies, I imagined an unbreakable sphere inside me that constantly drew the background magic around me into it and stored it for me. It’s so I would have a reserve in case I needed it for spellcasting. Apparently, it keeps the magic just around me at a certain constant level because of it. I can make the rate of absorption higher or lower but I haven’t turned it off completely in years.”

            “What is it like when the storage is full?”

            “I imagined it to never get full, so it doesn’t.”

Mielikki eyed him curiously. “How is that possible?”

            “Truewizard magic is, in the simple, about perception and imagination. If, when I use my magic to create my storage sphere, I happen to imagine it to be infinite in its capacity to hold magic, so it is. It can be crude and somewhat dangerous if I’m not careful. That’s why smart truewizards study everything they can. The more I understand, the more completely I can imagine something like that and the less likely it is to do something unexpected or hazardous to me or the people around me.”

            “That is completely illogical,” Mielikki said. “However, until we can discuss this at length I will accept it. But why would you want such a creation?”

            “I know there are worlds where the magic is so low that normal spells can’t be cast. This sphere won’t release the magic it has until I tell it to, and this keeps me from being trapped on any world like that when I travel.”

            She cocked her head. “What does it feel like when you release all of the magic?”

            “I’ve never released it all. I imagined that it had this valve and a regulator that fills me up until I’m full and it will replenish me as I use it, but I’ve never thought about releasing it all at once. There was never any reason to try that.”

            “We may have to explore that idea in depth again later,” Mielikki said. “Don’t forget to turn it back on.”

            “I have asked my twee and it’s set to remind me every half hour until I do,” Iain replied with a smile. “I definitely don’t want to forget that. It’s already saved my life at least once, when I used it to stun an attacking pokegirl so that I could kill her.”

            Heather frowned. “I never heard about that.”

            “It was when I had been kidnapped by Aglaii and before you joined us.”

            “Oh. Forget I asked.”

            Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “While Heather seems to be aware of the events involved, I am not. Please tell me what happened.”

            Iain was cycling the inner airlock open. “Aglaii was the Sanctuary Goth who masterminded the portion of the Author retrieval program that was designed to kidnap me. She was also the person who oversaw my torture after I was kidnapped and captured.” His voice was suddenly flat and unemotional. “When I escaped, she got in trouble over it so she laid plans to recapture me so she could deliver me to Sanctuary and get her lost status back or get a promotion. She was never really clear about that part and I didn’t ask Barbie to clarify. It took her a while to track me down again, but she finally succeeded and after catching me the second time she amused herself for several days by vivisecting me.” He glanced back at her and Mielikki’s face tightened at the blankness of his expression. “I figured out how to stun her into unconsciousness by reversing her evolution from Sanctuary Goth back to her previous breed and I had to access my stored magic to provide the necessary energy for the devolution. It threw her into a coma. Then I stabbed her to death and killed Barbie, who had been accepted into my family before she betrayed me to Aglaii.”

            Mielikki nodded. “I am sorry to have caused you to relive such pain.”

            “I didn’t relive anything.” He waved the two women into the airlock and began pumping it down. “I locked all of that away soon after the event ended and it never gets out where it can cause trouble. But sometimes people seem to feel that they need to know what happened to me during those intervals and I had to find a way to talk about it without coming apart. I learned to disassociate myself from the events I’m discussing so I can.” His face came alive again and he smiled. “See, I’m good.”

            Mielikki glanced at Heather and nodded when relief crossed the Elfqueen’s face. “I see that.” She reached out to him with her twee. I can hear the lie in your words, Iain, and I, as your goddess, can feel your soul twist in torment when you relive those moments.

            Heather can’t, and she’ll convey her belief as truth to the others. She and they desperately want to believe I have already dealt with my past. Don’t take that away from her. He activated the outer lock. “Let’s go see if we can help our fey and, if we must, Danu’s fey too.”

            Once outside, Mielikki headed straight for the ley line. She stepped inside it and stopped, closing her eyes. “So much power,” she said quietly. “Do you feel it, Iain?”

            “I do.” He glanced at her. “Can you drink this?”

            Her eyes opened. “What do you mean?”

            “Can you absorb the magic here to recharge your reserves?”

            She smiled amusedly. “My reserves, as you call them, are full.”

            “But you said you used to be much more powerful,” he protested.

            “I was.” She chuckled. “I understand now. What you don’t understand is that when a god loses worshippers and power, their total capacity is reduced. My reserves, as you call it, as well as my powers and my limits, are much diminished from what they were when I was at the height of my powers. Those reserves are full.” She frowned. “Quantifying what I’m trying to say is difficult.”

            Iain smiled. “I think you’re trying to say that you used to have a huge vault filled with magic and now all you have is a small chest that is full but holds a lot less magic than the vault did.”

            Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Have you been staring at my chest?”

            “What?” Iain blinked when Heather burst out in a fit of giggles. “A double entendre? From you?”

            Mielikki gave him a wide smile. “I am a woman, Iain.”

            Iain’s eyes twinkled suddenly. “Are you? You’re a goddess and you are female, but are you human?”

            Mielikki folded her arms over her chest and gave him an annoyed look. “I am your goddess, Iain. Twitting your goddess has been proven historically to be usually unhealthy for the person involved.” Her sudden smile ruined the effect. “And it is a very good question. Does it matter to you or affect our potential future together?”

            “No. Does the fact that I’m not human matter to you?”

            “It does not. Your personality is what is important, and I accept and like you as you are.” Her smile faded. “Can you feel how this is different from the ley lines on Earth?”

            “I haven’t paid that much attention to the ley lines before,” Iain said as he closed his eyes. “There are three on our property. I haven’t spent any real amount of time inside them since I don’t know how to travel the ley lines and they’re not good for much else right now.” His eyes opened. “And this one is still storing its power, which is not what we want. Or am I misunderstanding something?”

            “You understand perfectly,” Mielikki said. “But the energy of this one is already radiating away from it and it shouldn’t be too difficult to release it entirely. The ones on Earth are not like this. Compared to this one they are closed. What we need to do is learn how to open them up. How do you think it can be done?”

            Iain looked thoughtful. “Symbolism.”

            Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “How?”


            Mielikki smiled suddenly and nodded. “Yes.”

            Heather shook her head. “I’ve seen Iain do this before with Zareen and I know that unless I demand an explanation I won’t understand your cryptic utterings.”

            Mielikki turned an apologetic smile on Heather. “I’m sorry, we were,” she paused, “brainstorming on how to release the magic. Iain was suggesting that if we use the analogy that the ley lines are containers of water, we only need to poke holes in them to let the magic out. I’d originally thought we’d need to destroy the ley lines completely to release its magic but if his idea will work, that might make what we want to do easier to effect.”

            “I don’t think it is possible to destroy a ley line without destroying the planet,” Iain said. “Some studies I’ve read suggest that all planets have them. That could infer that if you have a planet you will have ley lines on it somewhere. It might also suggest that if have no ley lines, you don’t have a planet.” He grinned suddenly. “Now to find out if Pluto has ley lines.”

            “Would that mean that the planets of the Magog ship had ley lines,” Heather asked curiously.

            “That is an excellent question,” Iain said. “The ship itself is an artificial construct. But are the planets artificial or are they natural planets built into it? And would an artificial planet have ley lines? That would depend on several things.” He shrugged. “And since we’re not going back, all of those questions will have to remain unanswered until we come across another artificial planet.”

            His eyes drifted closed again. “We may have to go back to another world or two, such as Eight. I want to see if we can locate other ley lines that haven’t been touched and some that have been manipulated in order to see if they feel the same as the ones we’ve explored do. I don’t want to find out too late that there are variations from planet to planet and that by changing a ley line to mimic the one here that it causes the Earth to become more like Mars.”

            Heather looked surprised. “Is that even possible?”

            “This is magic,” Mielikki said. “Anything could be possible.”

            “I’ll need to examine some ley lines on Earth to see how they feel and when we start mucking about with one,” his eyes opened, “I think we’ll find a ley line in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran to work with.”

            Mielikki cocked her head. “Why there?”

            “It’s on the other side of the planet from Texas and so if something goes wrong, it’s unlikely to come to the ranch.” He turned to Mielikki. “Unless you want to visit another ley line, I think we’ve done all we can do on this visit. Later we may have to come back to run some tests or refine the data we’re collecting.”

            “I would like to visit at least one more ley line here,” Mielikki stated.

            Iain motioned towards the shuttle. “Then your chariot awaits.”


            Kasumi sat with Miriam in her lap and Haley snuggled against her side as they watched Iain and Pandora sparring each other with swords. Miriam turned worried green eyes on Kasumi. “Daddy is going to lose, isn’t he?”

            Kasumi nodded without taking her attention away from the competition. “I believe he is.”

            “He always loses against Pandora, doesn’t he?”

            “He does,” Haley said solemnly.

            Kasumi glanced down the Angels and smiled. “I have never seen him defeat her.”

            Miriam frowned. “Then why does he still fight her? She’s better than he is.”

            “And that is why he fights her,” Kasumi said. “He knows that he won’t get better unless he fights people better than he is. We must always challenge ourselves or we won’t grow into better fighters.”

            Haley looked up at her. “Really?”

            “Yes. When your father started sparring with me, I was much better than he was then but he has improved a great deal.”

            “Is he better than you are now?”

            Kasumi shook her head slightly. “No, he is not, but he is much better than he was when we first started training together.” She watched the sparring match for a moment. “Pandora is faster and stronger than I am, which is why I train with her too.”

            “Does that mean you are getting better?”

            “It does.”

            Miriam looked up at her again. “Does that mean that Daddy will never beat you?”

            “It does not. Your father has improved so much that it is getting more difficult for me to defeat him when we fight. Eventually he will become good enough that sometimes he will defeat me. It also helps him that he trains with people like Pandora, who force him to work harder than he does with me and with people like Kerrik and my grandmother because they know things that I don’t, although I too am training with my grandmother and learning what she will teach me.”

            Haley tugged gently on her sleeve. “When do we start training?”

            Kasumi chuckled softly. “If you must know the truth, you already have started training. It’s just that you don’t know that you have.”

            Haley’s eyes went wide. “We have?”

            “The morning exercises you do with Myrna, Saoirse, Olivia and Seraphina are training. We just disguise it so you have fun while doing it. As you get older, your training will change but you’ve already started. As your sisters get older, they will join you in training, starting with the morning exercises. And there, you and the other older children will begin helping us to push the younger ones to get better, just like Pandora and my grandmother help me and your father to get better.”

            Pandora lifted her sword and stepped backwards. “Break.”

            Iain nodded and dropped his sword as he breathed hard. “Works for me.” He smiled as he wiped sweat from his face. “I presume the break was for me.”

            The Archangel smiled back. “It is. You’ve gotten a lot better but you still have some distance to go before you’ll wind me in a fight.”

            “Hey, at least you break a sweat now when we spar. I’ll take my wins where I get them.”

            She nodded. “Is that last riposte you used one of the secret ones from Ygerna or can you teach it to me later?”

            “I learned that one from Yuko and I’ll be glad to teach it to you even though you’ll promptly turn around and use it on me.”

            She chuckled when he didn’t relax. “You’re learning.”

            He grinned. “Your breaks tend to end without warning.”

            “They do.” She chuckled again. “I remember how hopeless you were in the beginning. And now I think you’d defeat almost any human without blood gifts.”

            “Well that great, but it’s not good enough. I have to get good enough to beat the opponents who won’t even slow down when confronted with a normal human.”

            “People like Kerrik?”

            “Exactly. I don’t want to fight Kerrik to the death but there will be some fights with people like him that I won’t be able to avoid and my guards may not be able to intervene in all of them.” He grinned. “But right now I’ll be satisfied when I can bust Raven’s nose.”

            “She’ll break many of your bones when you do.”

            “I know. I accept the repercussions of my actions in payment for watching her nose explode in a shower of blood.” He smirked. “It’s the short term goals that keep me going.”

            “And what is your short term goal with me?”

            He glanced to where Kasumi was sitting with the girls and smiled lecherously at Pandora. “I’m not sure just how good their hearing is and so I’m not going to say that where you can be embarrassed by their response.”

            She blushed, snarled softly and attacked.


            “Do you think you’re ready to try something new?”

            Iain smiled slightly. “Kerrik, I’m almost always ready to try something new and you know it. The question is do you think I’m ready to try this new thing you’re considering.”

            Kerrik chuckled as he leaned against the rock and watched Misery and Raven trying to catch Ganieda. He’d instituted some new rules recently that kept the ladies around them busy with other things while he trained Iain but close enough to respond if something dangerous popped up. It let him work with his student with a minimum of interruptions. “How are your lessons with Caintigern going?”

            “We’re still covering the early history of the People. She says that understanding the early history is fundamental to understanding why they have the laws they do.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked and he glanced back at Iain. “I’m not sure where you’d find that pertinent.”

            “I think I’m a victim of tradition. She was taught this by her mother and may not know another way to teach history.” Iain smiled. “Fortunately I happen to enjoy history and I use my magic to stay awake during the parts that she could liven up a little.”

Kerrik didn’t know Caintigern’s history and Iain wasn’t going to share that he suspected he was getting the same training and lessons a Princess would have gotten from her Queen so he could better help Nightraven when the time came. He liked living, he liked Kerrik and he liked the planet he was standing on and he strongly suspected that at least one of the three would fare poorly in any serious confrontation between Kerrik and Caintigern. He might even miss Caintigern, at least a little, if the confrontation turned as lethal as he suspected it might and she came out on the losing end of the fight.

            “How is your work going on mastering your adult dragon form,” Kerrik asked, still watching the pokegirls.

            “I’m still studying the adult dragon forms to try and learn them as much as possible before I attempt a shift. However, I think I’ll be ready for a first attempt soon.”

            The kami nodded. “While I’d prefer that you have your adult form down first, I think you’re ready to try a hybrid form.”

            “And what would this form be hybrid with?”

            “Having an anthropomorphic form is often very useful. It lets you have some of the best of both worlds as far as your forms are concerned. And if you can make that form sexually mature, some of your girls might enjoy it.”

            Iain nodded. “I’ve been afraid to try that on my own.”

            Kerrik shoved upright. “Let’s talk to our women first. I want to do this in private. It’s not because I’m worried about your safety, but it’s because it’s often easier to take our clothes off first before attempting this level of complexity in a shift and that tends to get us too much attention from everyone around.” He looked back at Iain. “To keep the complaints to a minimum I thought we’d use the Luna station again.”

            “I think that would work well.” They’d gone to the refueling station in orbit around the moon to train before in microgravity. “Theodora?”

            Her voice came from the air near his right ear. “The training room is already prepared, Iain. Kerrik, will you require gravity adjustment?”

            “Not initially.” He smiled. “Standard gravity and pressure is fine for this. I am aware that Iain’s undergoing strength and endurance training in higher gravities. Later I’ll want to see where his limits lie.”

            Iain folded his arms. “Is it necessary for you to know that?”

            Kerrik chuckled. “If I’m going to tailor your training program so you get the most out of it, yes.”

            “Is this just keeping the punishment going?”

            Kerrik’s grin showed his fangs. “No, it isn’t just that. If you’re going to earn the title of master of my style, I will have to make sure you actually work for it and my style is easy to adjust for various levels of physical strength and endurance.”

            Iain’s voice dripped sarcasm. “I can’t wait.” He sighed. “What about the ladies?”

            “We’ll tell them where we’re going but I deliberately asked for a place where Theodora can be your guard and they don’t have to be around. I do try to adhere to your rules to keep things as uncomplicated as I can.”

            “Then let’s get this show on the road.” He reached out through his bond. Ganieda, it’s time to stop playing with Raven and Misery. Please come here.

            The Snugglebunny Splice vanished and appeared nearby. “Is it time to start playing with you,” she asked in a seductive voice.

            “No,” Kerrik said. Raven flew over and landed next to him, glaring at Ganieda as she folded her arms. Misery landed nearby with a mystified expression on her face. “Iain and I have to go somewhere else so I can give him some special training. We’ll be going to the Luna station and we will be going alone. Raven, you and Misery are released to whatever you want to do while I’m gone.”

            The Archmage transferred her glare to him. “Then we are all going to visit the Sabine Ranch and help out there until you get back.”

            Ganieda’s ears flicked. What’s going on?

            Kerrik wants to give me some specialized training in shifting and he says it’s easier if we go ahead and get undressed for the preliminary stages. I think he’s tired of the comments and leering while trying to get something done.

            Ganieda’s lips curved in an amused smile. Yeah, they still are a mouthy bunch and he can’t trust them not to comment unless he threatens them. Me, I’ll listen faster, but still I might say something. And Raven certainly doesn’t want me to be alone with Kerrik while he’s not wearing clothes. I might see his privates or possibly even his majors.

            Iain managed not to smile back at her. Exactly. If they’re going to the ranch, give them to April.

            She shook her head. I’ll check with Ninhursag but I think she’ll want them to go help with the children. Considering Raven, Misery and Whisper all want kids, they need the practice.

            That’s not my call, Iain replied, knowing that the children would be safe. “Ganieda, let Ninhursag and April know we’re going to have guests and please escort Raven and the others to the ranch.”

            Raven’s glare vanished as she turned to Iain with an inquisitive look. “Do you think I need a beta?”

            Iain glanced at Kerrik and the kami shrugged. You handle it, the kami said to Iain with his twee.

            Iain nodded slightly. “Do you have command authority over the Elves?”

            “No, I don’t,” Raven said. “I tell Autumn what to tell them to do if I have to. Do you think I should?”

            “That’s not my call, but if Autumn rules the Elves and you have little contact with them, your harem is small enough that a beta isn’t necessary for command decisions. Whether Kerrik needs someone as a sounding board I’m not prepared to comment on, but that is really the other reason to have a beta. April is the person I vent to and she is the second in command of all of the harem’s personnel. Ninhursag could get by without her if she had to, but it would be ugly.”

            Raven looked thoughtful and Iain smiled. “The other thing is you have to trust the beta to be able to take your place if you somehow end up incapacitated but the battle isn’t over. From what I’ve seen, you don’t trust any of your sisters to do your job.”

            Raven frowned. “Whisper could probably do it, but I think Morwen would probably do a good job more consistently than either Whisper or Misery.” Her frown deepened as Misery scowled angrily. “She could probably do a better job than I can.”

            “Talk to Ninhursag about shadowing her and April,” Iain suggested. He looked at Kerrik. “And if you’ll allow it, I’ll ask Theodora if she’ll help Raven improve as a harem leader.”

            “Please let her help,” Raven said quietly. “I want to be the best I can for you.”

            “All right,” Kerrik replied as he slipped an arm around Raven. “Go get the others and tell them we’re leaving in ten minutes.”

            Raven smirked at him. “Misery,” she called, “go find Whisper, Autumn and Morwen and tell them we leave in six minutes.”

            Misery smirked at the Archmage. “I just told them by twee.”

            Raven turned her head and her amethyst eyes looked into Misery’s black ones. “Good. Now follow it up by doing what I told you and go find them. Make sure they’re not late.”

            Iain shook his head as Misery’s ears went flat and reached out for Ganieda’s hand. “I’ll be waiting at the house while you sort this out.”

            Kerrik nodded. “Ten minutes.”

            Iain and Ganieda vanished.


            Kerrik watched the door slide shut with a tight expression on his face, his ears almost folded flat. Theodora appeared. “Security is now in place and this area is secure.”

            Iain looked at Kerrik. “Are you pissed at your women or me?”

            Kerrik growled low in the back of his throat as his ears came up to their normal position. “I’m sorry we were later than I said we’d be.”

            “It was six minutes, Kerrik.”

            He grunted. “It was supposed to be zero minutes. Would your women have been late if you’d given them the same order I gave Raven?”

            “If I’d told them we were moving in ten minutes? Yes. We’d still be getting things organized.” Iain chuckled at the look of surprise that appeared on Kerrik’s face. “I have a lot more women and a bunch of children and there is no way to make them hurry unless we’re under attack. We plan our moves days in advance for that reason, especially if the entire harem is involved.”

            Kerrik chuckled suddenly. “I guess that’s true, but my women should be more flexible than that.”

            “You do have a bunch of children in your harem, Kerrik. That adds a lot of complexity to any harem wide movement and we both know that Autumn loves bringing your girls to the ranch and they love being there.”

            “So I gave an impossible order?”

            Iain shrugged. “I don’t think you did it deliberately. And if you’d been determined to get to the ranch in ten minutes you could have moved them all yourself or just gone on ahead and let them arrive later.”

            He grunted sourly. “What I need to do is work with them more. They’re not the only ones who need to train with the whole group.”

            “April can add you to their training regimen.”  He frowned when Kerrik grunted again. “Kerrik?” Amber eyes swung to look at him. “Did it occur to you that the problems you had with your emotions from that magic you absorbed while making Jamie into a kami haven’t gone away even if you’re now physically an adult?”

            Kerrik’s eyes went wide. He closed them suddenly and his body went still. He stood that way for several minutes. “Shit,” he said softly. His eyes opened. “For once, I’m glad you know more than you should. I never considered that but after a quick check you’re right.”

            “It only makes sense,” Iain said quietly. “You and wild magic do not have a good history of working together. But then there’s a good reason why it’s called wild magic. It doesn’t work well with anyone.”

            Kerrik grimaced and began unbuttoning his shirt. “Strip.”

            “Wow,” Iain said as he sat down on a bench to remove his boots. “It’s no wonder that your harem is so hung up on you. You’re so sexy when you give me commands.” He laughed when Kerrik wadded up his shirt and bounced it off his head. “You brute,” he said in a breathy voice.

            Kerrik just started laughing. “Asshole.”

            When they were done getting undressed, Kerrik rolled his shoulders. “Considering what I’m learning about you, what other forms have you been shifting into?”

            Iain grinned. “I’ve only worked on a couple of them. I’ve learned to become a tiger and I’m working on becoming a killer whale.”

            “We don’t have any water here, so show me your tiger.” Iain became a large tiger. Kerrik made a motion with is hand. “Roll onto your back.” Iain’s ears flicked but he did so. “All right, stand up.” A second later Iain was back on his feet. “You’re sexually mature.” Iain nodded. “Good. Now go back to human.”

            Iain became human. “Is it weird that I still think of myself as human?”

            Kerrik shook his head. “I didn’t accept what had happened to me for several centuries, so I don’t think it is.” He changed, his form becoming that of a silver wolf-like creature nearly Iain’s height. It had black horns that curved back over its head and silvery rings composed of clouds appeared around its ankles. “I’m going to use this form because I can still talk to you in it,” he said. Iain noted idly that Kerrik’s jaws moved and his voice came from inside his mouth when he spoke. Kerrik settled into a sit, his hind legs curling under him as he did. “The thing to remember is that when you picture the hybrid form, it isn’t real until you force it into existence, so it can take a bit more work than taking the form of something you already know is real.”

            “Like my dragon horse form,” Iain said.

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “I haven’t seen that one yet.”

            “It appeared during my attempts to become a unicorn stallion,” Iain said. “Later, Golden Cloud asked me for a progress report on my shifting into a breeding partner for her. When she found out about its existence she asked to see it. Now it’s my dragon horse form. I’m still working to finish becoming a unicorn stallion of the herd, but I’m keeping this form too because it’s overall superior to the unicorns.”

            Kerrik cocked his head with an amused cant to his ears. “You can guess what’s next.” He changed back to his human form. “Show it to me.”

            Iain shifted to his dragon horse form. “Here it is. I originally thought it was an intermediate form in my attempts to become a unicorn. This is going to sound weird, but it feels right.” His ears flicked. “No, it feels correct.”

            Kerrik was walking around his student. His eyebrows rose at Iain’s words. “Let me see your teeth.” Iain pulled his lips back to reveal his draconic dentition. “You said it feels correct. I’ve learned that often a mage should go with his feelings. Sometimes your unconsciousness immediately knows something that it can take the conscious portion of your mind some time to understand and accept.” He knelt to examine one of Iain’s feet. “Claws.” Iain lifted the closest foot and extended his claws. “I see that your claws are the same design in both forms. Interesting.” He rose. “How long have you continuously spent in this form?”

            “A couple of hours at most. Zareen and I go running together.”

            “You need to spend more time in it before you can determine if it’s functionally correct. A few days is better. A few weeks would be good and a couple of years would be ideal.” He smiled slightly when Iain’s ears went flat. “I know you don’t have that kind of time right now, but you need to keep that in mind. A new form is exactly that, new. Sometimes learning its potential shortfalls can take living as whatever it is for a lengthy period. A drawback could turn out to be something small that’s still critical, like a hormone imbalance that won’t surface without specific conditions which might not come into existence very often.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind.”

            “I noticed this form is sexually mature too. Is it only your dragon form that isn’t?”

            “That’s right.”

            Kerrik nodded thoughtfully. “I suspect you’ll discover that becoming an adult dragon is more a matter of relaxing than it is of study. Still, it’s your mind and you will give and remove the limitations you put on it when you’re ready to.”

            “What does that mean?”

            “I think it’s something you need to discover on your own.” His ears flicked. “Now become human again and watch me.”

            Iain shifted back to his human form once more. “All right.”

            Kerrik changed back to the horned wolf. “Now watch closely.” His form shifted, growing upwards until it was bipedal, with human hands. The chest deepened and the abdomen, hips and shoulders widened out into a more humanlike shape as he rose onto his hind feet, which broadened slightly to match the rest of his body, but still remaining digitigrade. Even the drop of his tail changed to adjust to the new center of balance as the spine shifted.  He stood taller than Iain now, and looked down at him as he spoke. “Amusingly, it is both easier and harder than it looks to do this the first few times. One of our strongest mental images of the self that is us is upright, but you then have to adjust both the bipedal mental image and the quadruped form into an amalgam of the two at the right proportions.”

He shook hard, his fur rippling as he did. “Hands can be an issue since they must be a minimum of admixture if you want them to able to have thumbs so you can have an opposable grip and use tools properly.”

            “So can things like drinking out of cups without a humanlike mouth and flexible lips,” Iain noted.

“Yes, in this form I still lap when I drink.”

Iain walked around Kerrik slowly. “Should I do what you did and use my quadrupedal animal form as a metamorphic step between human and animal hybrid?”

Kerrik’s ears flicked and he shrugged. “While it could be looked at that way, your animal form isn’t a step, although you can use it as such when you’re getting started.” His form blurred to his human form and then back to the anthropomorphic wolf. “It isn’t necessary to do so.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

            Kerrik nodded. “Go ahead and give it a try. Just do what I did.”

            Iain closed his eyes. “Give me a second.” He smiled without opening his eyes. “And by a second I really mean several minutes.”

            Kerrik gave a rumbling chuckle. “Take all of the time you need, Iain.” He smiled. “And by all of the time, I mean I want you try this at least once before we end this training session in one hour and seventeen minutes. Don’t worry, since I can turn you back if you really mess this up and get stuck like I did the first time.”

            Iain chuckled. “You mean like Shikarou did when his powers activated?”


            The minutes ticked by while Iain stood with his eyes closed and breathing deeply. Suddenly, without warning or opening his eyes, he changed. He looked almost like a mirror image of Kerrik, only his fur was lighter and a bluish white and his horns matched his fur. His eyes opened and his mouth opened wide as he yawned loudly.

            Kerrik looked him up and down. “You became a wolf kami like me.” He eyed Iain’s wrists and chuckled as a white ring began to form around each of them. A quick glance showed them also forming around Iain’s ankles. “And you have at least some the more annoying parts of my kami powers.”

            Iain’s ears came up on point and focused on Kerrik. “You did tell me to do what you did,” he said with a quiet laugh in his voice. He took a step and staggered before falling and catching himself on his hands. “OK, the balance issue of standing on my toes all the time is going to take a bit of work.”

            “You have to learn to use your tail as a counterweight,” Kerrik held out his hand. “Let me help.” Iain gripped it and Kerrik pulled him upright and held him as Iain caught his balance and steadied. “And yes, you’ll have to work at it. And once someone like April knows about this you’ll get all of the practice you could ever want.”

            Iain’s ears flattened and his tail bristled as he growled low in the back of his throat. “This is covered by privacy until I release Theodora to blabber to everyone.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked as he looked around. “She didn’t say anything.”

            “She’s working on being unobtrusive.”

            “Good. That’ll help your relationship with her keep from having too much friction. If she’s anything like Cassiopeia when she was learning my boundaries, she was probably omnipresent until it got aggravating.” His ears flicked. “But then you had to fall in love with your inorganic intelligence.”

            “It wasn’t automatic,” Iain said. “She’s a wonderful woman and I am blessed that she feels the way she does about me. I could do nothing less than to look at her as the person she is and realize just how much I care for her and how much she deserves no less than that.”

            Kerrik looked around. “Wow, she is being very unobtrusive.”

            “It’s part of our agreement so I feel I’m not being constantly supervised while still being constantly monitored.”

            Kerrik nodded. “You do realize that now I know you can become a kami like me, your worth with Magdalene and Tanika will go up substantially.” His tongue lolled in a grin. “And I will test to see that you learn to master the powers of this form too.”

            “So this was a mistake,” Iain muttered.

            “No, it wasn’t,” Kerrik said. “You’ll also note if you look down that you are once again sexually mature.”

            Iain did and chuckled. “True.”

            “Which brings up an interesting question,” Kerrik noted as he returned to his human form. “Every form except your dragon one is adult.”

            Iain blinked. “Why is it different?”

            “Exactly.” Kerrik shrugged. “In the meantime,” he waved a hand. “You should start walking around and learning your new balance and how your body moves. Feel free to fall down while doing so. When I feel you’ve had a few minutes to get used to it, you’ll get to work on katas in this form. That’ll help you get used to it. And you should experiment with hybrid forms of the other forms you’ve mastered. As we both know, everything you do with your magic helps you grow as a wizard.” He smirked. “Eventually it’ll even help with your formal magical studies.” His smile faded. “Oh, and Iain?”


            “We both know that if you have my powers then you can probably fly in this form. Don’t use it to cheat and stay upright. I’ll know when you start doing katas and you know how I feel about cheating when I tell you not to.”

            Iain nodded. “I know. Just understand that I will be trying not to do anything like that but my control is going to be spotty for a while.”

            “I won’t accept that excuse. I wouldn’t from my children and I won’t from you.”


            Kerrik smiled. “Yeah, pretty much. Now get started. The clock is running.”


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

Marguerite - Unicorn


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

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