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“I will admit I was kind of surprised to find you on my schedule,” Iain said amusedly.
“I thought this was the best way to ensure that you would be available for me from time to time,” Mielikki seemed even more amused than he did. “And this makes April and Ninhursag much happier than if I just summon you to my side. I would prefer that they and the other members of the inner clan be my friends rather than any sort of rival.”
“I appreciate you looking out for your clanmates. So what am I doing with you for the next four hours?”
“I’ve sent word to Pandora that you’ll need a bodyguard and, after Dianthus arrives, we will be going to visit several ley lines around the world so you can get a feel for the ones here on Earth.”
“Is this just an examination or are you expecting us to try and open one up as an experiment?”
“I don’t believe we are ready for that step. This is what you call a fact finding tour like the ones that many politicians go on from time to time.”
Iain snorted. “I hope we’re going to do better than that. Most political fact finding tours seemed to be nothing more than a flimsy excuse for politicians to travel around the world at the expense of their taxpayers. They certainly don’t seem to accomplish much of anything on them.”
“We will be on a mission to gather information, not to explore the fleshpots of the regions we will be visiting,” Mielikki said almost tartly. “I am only considering one man for a possible romantic entanglement, that being you, and I don’t feel that you’re interested in women outside of the clan.”
“I’m not interested?” Iain chuckled. “I think that comment about me looking as long as I’m not dead comes into play here. However, you’re right that I’m not doing anything more than looking at anyone outside the clan.”
Dianthus came trotting up. “Sir.”
“How are we going to get to these ley lines,” Iain asked curiously. “Have we been to them before?”
“I have,” Mielikki said. “And I’ll transport you and Dianthus with me.” She looked at the Elfqueen. “Are you ready?”
“I am,” Dianthus said as she reached out for Iain’s hand.
Suddenly they were standing in a tropical forest. The air was hot and the humidity so high that it almost felt like trying to breath water. Mielikki gestured. “The ley line is a hundred meters from here. You’ll want to turn off your absorption again, Iain.”
“What the fuck,” Dianthus said as she looked around quickly.
“I don’t need physical contact of any sort with people to move them,” Mielikki said. “I am a goddess after all.”
Iain chuckled at the note of pride in her voice. “You are certainly that. Lead on, my pretty lady.”
Mielikki gave him a curious smile. “I can tell when people lie to me, but I wonder if you haven’t learned to be proof against that ability. Do you really think I am pretty?”
“I do,” Iain said. “And you know well that I still haven’t learned to hide my lies. But if you want your ego stroked, I’ll be glad to do that too.”
“That’s not all he’ll stroke,” Dianthus said with a grin.
Mielikki’s cheeks reddened as she blushed. “Please don’t be crude, Dianthus.”
Iain managed not to shake his head as he gestured in a random direction. “You said the ley line was this way?”
She gave him a grateful look. “Almost. Follow me.” She headed off in a straight line close to where he’d pointed. “I want you to try and get a feel for the strength of the local magical field while we walk.”
“Where are we,” Dianthus asked.
“We’re in the jungles of what used to be Laos. Which league this happens to be part of is unclear. Shanghai claims it but the Laotian people still consider it the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and have been fighting Shanghai’s forces fiercely. Shanghai could crush them but their true focus is on capturing the riches that they feel are in Nippon. Currently this area is nowhere near pacified.” She glanced back at Iain. “Ferals have only recently begun to be a problem in the region.”
“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people,” Iain said with a smile.
“I take it you don’t like the Laotians?”
“While I was an American and a member of the American military, I never had an automatic dislike of communism. My parents raised me to not accept anything automatically that others insisted I believe. Instead I did my due diligence and looked up what it was like and spoke to people who had fled communist dictatorships. There were several at uni and we talked at length. That’s why I know that socialism or communism and capitalism can never coexist. Communism and personal freedom or responsibility can never coexist either. The only successful communist nations are successful because they’ve been sucking the lifeblood and technology of foolish capitalists who don’t understand that they’re just cattle to the socialists and communists. Laos is one of those lampreys.” He shrugged. “I don’t notice the magic getting stronger or am I missing something that I shouldn’t be?”
“You do not feel the magic getting stronger because it is not,” Mielikki said. “It won’t get appreciably stronger until we are inside the ley line.”
“Are there other gods,” Dianthus asked abruptly.
“There are,” Mielikki replied. “Most of them are like Danu and have very little power.”
“Have you met any of them?”
“I have,” Mielikki said. “I was looking at a ley line in Ireland and I was visited there by Morrigan. She wanted to know what I knew about there being two goddesses named Danu. She is justifiably concerned about the shift in the balance of power in Ireland as a result.”
“You didn’t tell her about Iain, did you?”
Mielikki laughed. “I did not. Our clan has enough things that Iain must deal with. And I see no reason for another goddess to see what I see in him and seek to claim him as hers.”
“Are you going to have children with him,” Dianthus asked curiously.
“I am not sure that is even possible,” Mielikki replied. “I am no virgin and yet I have never been pregnant. It is thought that not all goddesses can have children. Whether that is true or not, it is true that few ever do.”
“I think Iain could get a stump pregnant,” Dianthus said.
“Hey now,” Iain said.
“I think you exaggerate his fertility just a little bit,” Mielikki replied. “And Iain and I are as of yet just friends. We have not been and may not ever be lovers. But every one of the children of the clan is mine to cherish and love and I will certainly do that.” She stopped, lifted her hand and the ley line in front of her sprang into visible existence. “Here it is.”
“I still don’t feel a change in the ambient magic levels.”
“You will when you step into the ley line. Then you can tell me what you discover once you are there.”
Iain glanced at Dianthus, who was scanning the area for threats. “All right.” He stepped into the ley line, feeling the magic around him change in power as he did. “You’re right, but it’s not as strong as the ones we visited on Mars.” He frowned and closed his eyes. “No, it is as strong as the ones on Mars, but it’s not radiating any energy and you have to reach deeply to feel it. And it feels different.”
“I agree,” Mielikki said quietly. “But I am unsure how to define the differences.”
“Imagine the ley line is a string,” Iain began.
“I thought you said it was like a tube or sausage,” Dianthus said amusedly.
Iain smiled. “Actually, the sausage analogy is probably a pretty good one to use too. Thanks.” His eyes opened. “But I don’t want to compare a ley line to a piece of animal gut. So let’s imagine that a ley line is a long piece of string. On Mars the stings are laid out in lines and are pulled tight but not overtight. Here, the string has been twisted, like you can twist a string with a pencil if you attach one end of the string to something solid and the other end to the pencil and then rotate the pencil around the axis of the string. Eventually the string begins to bunch up as it is twisted. This feels like that. The problem is that we don’t know if the ley lines on Mars are like the ley lines on Earth used to be.” He frowned. “But we can find out.”
Mielikki raised an eyebrow. “How can we do that?”
“We’ll have to go on a shadow walk. There is an Earth that seems to never have had sentient land based life and so we can examine ley lines that probably haven’t been touched by anyone.” He frowned. “I need to talk to Kerrik about something.”
“I thought we were not going to include outlanders until we had a more solid idea of a solution.”
“No, not this, I have a question about time travel and I need his expertise on the subject.”
Mielikki nodded. “I know very little about time travel.”
Iain smiled. “Sorry, my mind is skipping around again. So we need to go on a shadow walk next.”
“Do I need to get Dominique,” Dianthus asked.
“Not for this,” Iain said. “Besides she’s already been there since I did originally intend to take the clan there, but while we’re there it won’t hurt for you and Mielikki to go ahead and get a feel for the place. I was considering it as a quiet place to harvest DNA and possibly picnic with the kids. It’ll also be a potential bolt hole and if we decide it won’t work out that way then I will need to talk to my command staff about it, but that’s something for another day.”
“Mielikki has not been checked out as one of your bodyguards,” Dianthus said. “Goddess or not, she’s not on the list and the rules clearly state that all bodyguards must be certified as such.”
Iain chuckled. “If I didn’t know you predated the Officer Jenny line I’d suggest that you carried some of their DNA. However, you’re right so you’ll be staying out for the trip too.” He held out his hands. “There’s no time like the present, ladies. Shall we go?”
Mielikki took his hand. “Yes.” She watched at Dianthus grabbed his other hand. “What do we do?”
“Step with me when I say so and don’t let go unless I say to. Trust me to get us there safely.” He looked at Dianthus. “I am serious. Do not let go unless I tell you to. If I have to hurry and leave and you jerk away when you’re supposed to be stepping with us, bad things might happen. Worse things will happen when I have to return to get you.”
“I understand,” Dianthus said grimly. “I remember the giant slugs. You lead in this and I trust you with my existence as I always do.”
“Good. Now step when I tell you to.” He waited until she nodded and looked to Mielikki, who nodded as well. “Step.”
They stood in a metal corridor brightly lit by strip lighting. Ahead, the corridor opened into a much larger area with a sign marking this as the Zocalo. Music could be heard from somewhere in the area ahead and the babble of voices could be heard. “I know where we are. I’ll have to remember this place,” Iain said.
“There’s something evil here,” Mielikki stated. “Something evil, powerful and ancient.”
“That’s right,” Iain said thoughtfully. “I’d forgotten about them. Maybe I won’t come back here, although I doubt they’d have much interest in me.” He glanced at the two women. “Step.”
They stood on a rise, overlooking a vast herd of bison. It was early evening and the rays of the setting sun made the shadows of the grazing animals in front of them stretch impossibly huge. In the distance, dark clouds shivered with flashes of lightning. “Here we are, ladies. I wasn’t here long but from the equipment I carry this world may never had had sentient life, at least not on land. The ley lines are hopefully untouched.”
Mielikki was looking around with wide eyes. “Do you feel how pure everything is, Dianthus?”
“I do,” the Elfqueen replied. “There is nothing here but nature. It seems almost an evil to sully it with our presence.” She looked at Iain. “Do you feel it?”
Iain was looking at his feet. “No, but that’s probably because I’m standing in fresh buffalo shit.”
Dianthus looked down and laughed. “Only you, Iain.”
“In this case you’re right.” Iain sighed as he let the women’s hands go and stepped backwards to start scraping his boot against the grass. “Can you sense the ley lines on this world, Mielikki?”
She carefully stepped around the dung towards him. “I can. There is one only a few miles to the north.”
“Where are we,” Dianthus asked as she readied her bow. “From my nature classes with the kids I know that buffalo are native to the North American continent, but where on it are we?”
Iain shrugged. “Without accurate maps or a satellite constellation there’s no way to tell for certain. Besides, at one time the plains bison could be found from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico.” He looked at Mielikki. “You’re driving.”
The scene shifted around them. Now they were in trees and, with a yelp, a coyote that had been sniffing at the ground bolted away from them into the underbrush. Mielikki pointed. “The ley line is thirty yards that way.”
“You’re never going to go metric, are you,” Dianthus asked teasingly.
Mielikki shrugged. “Anything is possible, but my measurement system works perfectly well. And I have a hard time accepting a system of measure popularized by a group of isolated academics who were ignoring the mob of peasantry murdering the nobles of their country at the same time and then that measurement system was forced on conquered territories of that same nation by that same mob.”
Dianthus gave Iain a confused look and he smiled. “The metric system as it’s used today was mostly finalized in France during the French Revolution. And while the scientists did isolate themselves from the violence I’m not sure what they could have done to stop the mob. If they’d gotten involved the mob would have eaten them up too without so much as a burp afterwards. But it was spread by the armies of Napoleon, who had staged a coup and become the emperor of France and it was forced on those they conquered. They also tried to destroy Christianity at the same time, but that had little to do with the metric system except that they changed the week to ten days and got rid of Sunday.”
“Oh. Is that important for the metric system?”
“Not really. I just didn’t realize that Mielikki was a monarchist.”
“A properly run monarchy can be very effective for all of the citizenry,” Mielikki noted with asperity.
Iain regarded her curiously. “A properly run monarchy only exists in the minds of dreamers. The human factor can never be ignored and it’ll defeat all of the attempts of the monarch to control it. It may take a generation or two, but corruption will inevitably begin to drift in and people will begin to get screwed over, especially in monarchies who believe in royal infallibility.”
“You are a monarch,” Mielikki said.
“That’s debatable. In any case I include our clan in that comment about corruption. All I can do is try to keep the corruption down to something reasonable. I try by remembering that I am not infallible and neither is anyone else and also by surrounding myself with people who will argue with me if they think I’m doing something stupid. That’s why Theodora and Daya both have standing orders to argue with me if they think I’m being an idiot about something.” He rubbed his eyes. “Although that might have been a mistake in Daya’s case.”
Dianthus was surveying their surroundings alertly. “Explain that.”
“Like everyone else, she’s also got her own agenda and she still has a serious hate on for the Magog. She says I’m making a mistake in not prioritizing their destruction. Often.”
“What do you think?” It was Mielikki.
“The Magog are not a threat to us and we’ve got more immediate issues to deal with. If it truly makes her happy to exterminate them, then more than likely one day we’ll do it, but right now they can wait. Besides, we don’t have the resources to carry the fight to them, although I’m working on access to the resources we’ll need.”
“That is hardly surprising,” Dianthus said. “Daya is clan and inner harem. If presenting her with the destruction of the Magog would make a good present and doesn’t hurt the clan, then that present she shall get.”
“Well, right now trying to give her that present would destroy us, so it’ll wait.” Iain turned to Mielikki. “My absorption is turned off.”
She took his hand. “Later, I want to have a long talk with you about shadow walking. I want to know more about it and to see if I can learn to do it.”
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told Dominique,” he said quietly. “I’m not exactly sure how I do this. I seem to have just absorbed the technique from my dragonesses when they used it to take me places. Still, I’ll talk with you and see if the two of us can shed some new light on how it’s done.”
“That is all I can ask for.” She smiled suddenly. “Unless you’d volunteer some memories of shadow walking to your favorite goddess. Would you?”
Dianthus laughed. “Now she definitely sounds inner harem.”
Mielikki’s cheeks turned slightly pink. “It is a little cheeky of me, isn’t it?” Her blue eyes bored into Iain’s for a second. “But it could be important that he shares. Right now he is the only one of us who can walk the shadows and if he is lost there is no way to try and rescue him.”
“That’s enough in an unsecure place,” Iain said firmly as Dianthus opened her mouth. “There could be all kinds of sensors, both magical and technological, around us that we know nothing about.”
Mielikki frowned. “He’s right. Even though I do not sense the presence of any gods or other powerful supernatural beings on this world, it has already been proven that some beings can hide from even someone like me.”
“I am going to learn how that’s done,” Iain muttered.
“I have no doubt that you will.” Mielikki paused. “The magic is getting very strong. Do you feel it?”
“I do. It feels a lot like the ley lines we visited on Mars.”
“Is this the world you mentioned when you said you were looking for someplace to bring the children to play,” Dianthus asked suddenly. “I mean is it the actual world we’ve been talking about and not a close analog?”
Iain looked back at her. “Yes, it is.”
“Then I request you do no experimentation here. This place is wonderful and the Elf children would love it. I’m sure the other kids would love it too.”
“I wasn’t planning to do any experimentation here,” Iain’s sounded distracted as he focused on the ley line. “I’ve brought Dominique, Ganieda, Ninhursag and April here so we can escape to this world if something terrible happens and we have to run. The next step is to bring Theodora and Daya here and begin to build our orbital construction infrastructure so we’re not living in tents when we arrive. In the meantime, we’ve tentatively selected a few places in what would have been California, Ireland, Japan and Texas as picnic sites or places for homes. Now we’ll visit them and see what they’re like on a world that hasn’t been touched by humans until now.” He chuckled. “It’s a good thing we can mine the asteroids for everything we want. Otherwise we know where there are opals in Australia, diamonds in Africa, gold in various places around the world and lots of other nifty things. There might be aurochs in Europe, giant monitor lizards in Australia and things like American lions, short faced bears and other large predators in North America. But since there were no humans to act as apex predators and an evolutionary force, what we’re going to find could be and will be expected to be nothing we might have anticipated. The only things we do know is there should be no feral pokegirls and that this place is going to be awesome to explore.”
He waved towards the ley line. “As for this, we’re just using this as a sampling for what an untouched ley line on Earth should hopefully be like.”
Mielikki stepped inside the ley line and sighed happily. “It is a lot like the Mars ones but it seems more,” she hesitated, “powerful? Is that what I’m trying to say?”
Iain joined her, closing his eyes as he stopped beside her. “This line has a lot more energy stored in it than any of the ones we visited on Mars.” He frowned, his eyes still closed. “It may have more energy in it than the ones we visited on Mars even if we combined them all.” His eyes opened. “And it has no Danu goddesses to cause trouble.”
“We need to learn if you can open the ley lines up,” Mielikki said. “And since we don’t want to accidentally despoil this world, where shall we test?”
“Mars. It’s a good test bed for what we want. We can monitor it without worrying that either Danu will interfere or realize what we are doing.”
“They won’t even notice what is happening on another world.” Mielikki said. “But that will only remain true if we do not inform any of their worshippers in the clan.”
“You may have to take the goblins away from Danu,” Iain said. “Would you be willing to do that?”
“It goes without saying that I, even before I was clan, would not force anyone to worship me,” Mielikki said. “It would be remiss of me, however, not to say that now so that we all understand what you are suggesting. In any case, we must wait for the most propitious time if the goblins do decide that they want to change to my worship. That would be after the Danu goddesses are busy with a large number of children and unlikely to immediately notice the loss of the goblins, who have not been actively worshipping them.” She met his gaze squarely. “However, even if I suborn the goblins there are still Ygerna and Gormlaith to consider. As long as they worship Danu, the goddesses will be able to learn some of the clan’s secrets.”
“I’ll talk to them.”
“Can you truly explain our concerns with them in sufficient detail for them to comprehend the risk without either Danu discovering what we are planning?”
“I’ll address it as a security issue without going into any specifics. The most that the two Danu might learn is that there are things afoot that we don’t want them aware of and that I’m trying to pinch Ygerna and Gormlaith away from them. I’ll also have to talk to Arianrhod and maybe address the goblins as a group. They need to know as much as I can tell them about what’s going on. They are clan and that is their right.”
“You must need speak to them soon.”
“I look forward to seeing how you will address the issue. However, I believe we have learned what we can from this ley line and it is time to move to another one.”
Iain smiled. “I agree.”
“I’m ready,” Dianthus said.
An instant later they were gone.
Kerrik glanced at the sky, his ears flicking. It was nearly midnight and the waning moon sat squarely in a clear sky, providing more than enough dim light to see by even by beings without enhanced vision. Then he turned to the figure perched almost daintily on top of a nearby rock. “Why are you here?”
“I am here,” her voice was low and warm, “because a survey showed that I was the most put off by what is going to happen tonight. If I can accept this then the others will too, grandfather.”
“If that’s true,” Iain said as he finished a complicated series of stretches, “then I must wonder about the coincidence of Lucifer and Pandora being my guards tonight.”
“Kasumi is not an unbiased witness,” Pandora replied. “And you need guarded here with what is going on.”
“We are here,” Lucifer said with a smile, “in case the events tonight go awry and Iain needs assistance to resolve the ensuing unpleasantness.” Her smile vanished, and her tone became serious. “While you are Iain’s friend, Kerrik, you will be teaching him something completely new and unknown. We agree that he needs this knowledge, but is it not your habit to stand back once Iain begins and only lend your assistance to him if things spiral completely out of control and he has been injured to such an extent that he can no longer correct the situation on his own?”
“It is how our mistress taught both of us,” Iain said quietly. “And it does lend itself to teaching us to respond quickly to crises.”
“And tonight we will help you respond quickly if it becomes necessary, my husband,” Kasumi replied. “And the conditions are that we will respond before you ask for help.”
Kerrik dropped a hand on Iain’s shoulder. “Be glad you are loved so much,” he said quietly. “It may save your life or your very soul one day.” His gaze quickly swept the three women. “Even if their presence irritates the fuck out of me.” Suddenly he flashed a quick smile. “But it is nice to know that your women are as disobedient as mine can be.”
“Does that mean you’re going to go retrieve Raven from where she’s hiding and hoping we don’t know she’s here,” Iain asked curiously.
Kerrik growled softly. “I’ll be right back.” He slipped away into the darkness.
“Thank you for being here,” Iain said. He smiled slightly. “I presume everyone wanted to be here and not just you three?”
“You presume correctly,” Lucifer’s voice was thick with amusement. “And those who are not here are awake and watching through our twees and the drones that Theodora and Daya have liberally seeded the area with. They’re on four second deployment alert as well.”
“Of course they are,” Iain said dryly. “Because a three second delay is just too anticipatory.”
Kerrik returned with a rather grumpy looking Raven. “Just for the record,” the Archmage Hunter said as she moved to stand with Kasumi, “nobody should be as stealthy as Kerrik.”
Kerrik chuckled. “Iain, tonight I am going to show you one of the ways to raise the dead so you can exercise your necromantic powers and keep them from spontaneously activating.”
“Does that ever really happen,” Raven asked rhetorically.
“It happened to Iain four days ago,” Pandora replied grimly. “That the reason why we’re here.”
Raven’s eyes went wide. “What happened?”
“We’re raising rabbits for meat and fur and that day we slaughtered some of them,” Iain said. “While I was cleaning one it started kicking again and tried to walk around without a head or any guts. Then the others started moving too. They wouldn’t stop moving even after we dismembered them and we ended up cremating them. That’s when I called Kerrik.”
Raven shivered. “That’s creepy.”
“We thought so too.”
“There are many ways to raise the corporeal dead,” Kerrik said. “A lot of it depends on what magical tradition or methodology someone is inculcated into. I’ve learned many of the different ways to raise the dead over my life. You are like me in that you are a truewizard and a true necromancer. That is important because both are very rare, very powerful and we can often ignore rules that constrain others who animate the dead. The way I’m going to teach you tonight is how I normally raise the dead. It only uses our power and dispenses with the tools and trappings that other forms of necromancy use. While those can be helpful, they’re a crutch and if you grow too dependent on them you can reach a point where you can’t use your magic without them. Then you can reach a point where you can’t raise the dead without your specific personal tools and that’s when your tools will somehow get destroyed or go missing, leaving you crippled. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with using augments to your power, but you need to learn to do it without the augments first. And for some of the augments there may be moral issues involved as well. For example, human or animal sacrifice is often used by some varieties of magic users to animate the dead.”
“Isn’t darkness an augment,” Iain asked. “I animated the rabbits in the afternoon.”
“Daytime and nighttime are not augments for awakening the dead,” Kerrik replied. “There is no difference for the animated dead between night and day raisings and for some of the types of necromancer who raise them. For us, day and night are only important when you have the bad luck to be dealing with some of the free willed undead. You must always remember to do your homework with any free willed undead who isn’t mindless, and it’s best to do that homework before you ever try to command them. While every undead vampire has many things in common, each is unique and its most powerful weaknesses can be found in that uniqueness. The same is true for mummies, liches and some ghosts. Tonight, however, we are dealing with the animated dead. That includes the basic zombie and lesser ghosts. Both are given a semblance of life by our power and we can remove that semblance at will to return them to death.”
His teeth gleamed in the darkness. “We’re here at midnight because it’s actually easier to track the animated dead at night should one break free of your control and bolt. They have an aura for the first few hours of their existence that is easily visible at night.”
“So why are we in a cemetery outside of Hyattsville Maryland,” Pandora asked. “There are plenty of cemeteries in Texas.”
“If we do lose a zombie here,” Kerrik said, “it won’t bother anyone important to us.”
Raven frowned as she looked around the area. “Do they often break free?”
“I haven’t had one break free from my control in a long time,” Kerrik said. “Iain is just getting started, however and I don’t know yet how strong his control will be.” He turned to Iain. “To return to the lesson, there are basically three types of sleeping dead. There are those who are deeply asleep and might resent being woken up, those who only sleep lightly and those who are restless sleepers. The deep sleepers have no ties to the living or the living world. The light sleepers tend to have family still alive or some minor business that they feel they need to complete before they can sleep deeply. The restless dead are the rarest and they each have something to do that was important to them enough when they died that they’re eager to return to complete that task or to lay the responsibility for the completion on someone else. A really powerful restless dead may manifest as a ghost, which can bring a whole host of new problems. And finally, some few restless dead are undead vampires who are asleep. You will quickly learn to tell them from the ghosts and normal restless dead.”
“What do I do first?”
“Watch me and open yourself up so you can sense what I’m doing with more than your eyes,” Kerrik said.
Iain closed his eyes for several seconds and lowered his defenses so he was more aware of the environment around him before opening them again. “I’m ready.”
“The first thing,” Kerrik said, “is to examine the cemetery for any dangers such as angry ghosts, powerful restless dead or anything unexpected, like a pokegirl who was killed here and whose body is still here. Most necromancers or whatever they call themselves need a whole or mostly whole corpse to animate but our power as truewizards is such that we only need the tiniest piece of a body to raise it whole.”
“Can you return someone to life that way?” It was Kasumi.
“It is but a semblance of the life they had, not a true life,” Kerrik replied. “To truly bring someone to life during an animation requires their soul be present when the body is raised and then certain specific steps be performed in a specific order. While there are ways to catch a soul as it leaves the body, you have to be present when that person dies or you have to retrieve their soul from the lands of the dead if they haven’t moved on to their final residence. And if you can go to the lands of the dead then you can just bring them through with you and that will return them to life. That’s what happened to Pandora.” When Iain looked curiously at him, Kerrik shrugged. “Misery told me about it. She said April mentioned it to her.”
“I’ll have to have a talk with her about telling tales without my permission,” Pandora said grimly.
Raven scowled. “And I need to have a chat with Misery about not telling me things she learns. I didn’t know about that.”
“Will your chat involve beating Misery halfway to death like mine with April might,” Pandora asked.
Raven grinned, her teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “I think three quarters dead is more likely to make a lasting impression on her.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Perhaps I’ll have to take things that far too.”
Kerrik’s ears flattened for a heartbeat. “I’m starting, Iain.”
Iain felt Kerrik’s magic spreading out around them like fog billowing out. It stopped behind them but continued to flow into the cemetery. There was a tiny flash of color when it crossed over where a corpse rested and Iain instinctively understood that it was categorizing each body as it touched before moving on even though he knew that he didn’t understand what it was telling Kerrik. When it had covered the entire cemetery, it dissipated into nothingness.
Kerrik looked at his student. “Do you understand what I did?”
“I didn’t feel anything,” Kasumi murmured to Lucifer.
“I felt cold flowing around us,” the Megami-Sama replied.
“I didn’t feel anything either,” Raven said. Pandora just gave Iain a worried look before going back to watching their surroundings alertly.
“I felt what you did but I don’t understand the results,” Iain replied. “But that’s because only your mind can interpret your magic unless you give someone else the key.”
Kerrik looked pleased. “Exactly. Now it’s your turn. Let your power flow outward and know these dead that you may command them.”
Iain nodded and took a pace forward before raising his hand, palm up and horizontal. In his mind’s eye, the magic fountained up in his palm and overflowed in a solid stream to the ground where it collected in a growing bubble.
“Interesting,” Kerrik murmured as he watched.
When the bubble was large enough, the magic flowed into the cemetery at the speed of a galloping horse until it covered everything. Magic continued to pour from Iain to the ground as the magic seeped into the earth, whispering to him about everything dead that it found. It told him of thousands of crickets, spiders and other tiny animals, hundreds of mice and rat pieces. An owl must stop here regularly to regurgitate pellets for in one spot there were dozens of dead mice and voles piled atop one another. In another, a horse had been shot in 1745 and dumped in a pit.
And then the whispers told him of the dead people. The cemetery had been in use since the early 1800s and Iain learned everything about the dead buried in it that he needed to pull them from their interment.
And his magic delved still deeper. There were fewer bodies, but they went back through pre-Revolutionary War to some Amerindians who had fallen here and not been found by their tribemates.
“Are there always so many murdered dead in a cemetery,” Iain asked quietly, his hand still held upright while the magic poured deeper into the earth around them.
“Sometimes,” Kerrik said. “Murdered dead can also be killed by people in self-defense. All they know is that they were murdered by someone and are usually angry about it. How many ghosts are there?”
“Seven if you count the one very angry Piscataway ghost who is a lot deeper than the cemetery proper.” The magic stopped flowing and Iain dropped his hand.
“I was hoping you’d find her, but I don’t think you need to dig any deeper before we go to the next step.”
“I know that for some necromancers that they’re limited in regard to how long a corpse has been dead as to whether or not they can raise it. Are we?”
“Not really. It just takes a little more power to waken them.”
“Have you tried this on a fossil?”
Kerrik chuckled. “I have not. Now I may have to give that a shot.” His ears flicked. “I am going to raise the dead person over there.” One gravestone flashed red. “Tell me what you know about that person.”
“Her name is Jessica Lacey Hill, she died at the age of forty six from the Red Plague and she sleeps lightly.”
Kerrik frowned. “How do you know her middle name? The gravestone says her name is Jessica Hill.”
“I read somewhere that it’s easier to animate a particular dead if you know that person’s name so I learned the names of everyone sleeping here when I scanned the cemetery. Not all of them have gravestones so I used my magic to know who they were.”
Kerrik shook his head amusedly. “Since you keep doing things that I don’t but that I should be doing, do you think you can wake her up safely without me showing you how I do it?”
“I can try.”
Kerrik smiled. “There is no try.” Raven snickered loudly.
Iain sighed before brightening. “Oh, speaking of Yoda, I found a Star Wars universe on one of my walks. I’m pretty sure I was on a Star Destroyer over Hoth.”
“I so want to go on a shadow walk with you soon,” Kerrik said.
“Schedule it for my training time and you’ve got a deal.”
“Done. Now wake up Miss Hill.”
“It’s Mrs. Hill and all right.” Iain hadn’t released his magic and smiled as he turned to face the grave. “Jessica Lacey Hill, it’s time to get up.”
Kerrik chuckled softly. “I learned how to raise the dead for a job I had and the guy who ran the business would have had a fit at the lack of formality you use for this. It was all about impressing the customers so we’d get more by word of mouth.”
“I’d have told him to piss off,” Iain muttered as a slender black woman rose from the earth over the grave. The earth parted like water as she rose and flowed back under when her feet were clear. She was easily seen as her entire body glowed a soft green that reminded Iain of foxfire that was undimmed by the nice dress that she wore.
She looked around confusedly. “Doug?”
Iain stepped forward. “Is Doug your husband, Mrs. Hill?”
Her gaze sharpened on him. “Yes, he is. I don’t know where he is, but I know he’s not where he should be and that’s with me. Who are you?”
Iain had felt a surge to his power when she was rising out of the ground but now that same power was at a much lower level and stable. He figured it meant that keeping her awake wasn’t using his power much at all. “Mrs. Hill, I am Iain and it’s time for you to go back to sleep.”
She nodded even as she began to sink into the ground. “Yes, I want to sleep. Good night.” The earth closed over her head and she was gone.
Iain carefully pulled all of the magical power he’d released from the cemetery together and let it free to dissolve into the environment. “How was that?”
Kerrik’s eyes unfocused for a second. “She’s back to where she belongs and nobody else was disturbed. Well done.”
Kasumi got up and walked quickly over to take Iain’s hand and squeeze it hard. “She seemed so alive. I knew that she wasn’t because she felt just so wrong, but still,” she trailed off, her eyes unhappy. “Do they always seem that alive?”
“No.” Kerrik was watching her closely. “Our power makes them seem that way but the average person animating a corpse won’t have it be so lifelike. And the ones animated by formal magic are often more like Zombabes, mindless and aggressive unless under firm control by their creator.”
“Would Iain be able to control Zombabes,” Lucifer asked curiously.
“Not only could either of us control Zombabes if we wished to,” Kerrik said. “We could command them to return to the death from which they came if that’s what we wanted. A formal mage could control smaller numbers of Zombabes or other mindless undead as well, but the cost for the spells to be successful would only be paid by evil wizards as they typically call for the sacrifice of sentient life such as humans. However, they would not be able to command them to return to death. The would have to find a way to destroy them instead, just as any normal person fighting them would have to.”
Pandora laid a hand on Iain’s shoulder for a second. “Thank you for being considerate and polite to Mrs. Hill.”
“I see no reason to be rude about this,” Iain replied. “Most of them don’t know they’re dead and often refuse to accept the truth when confronted with it. In that light, telling them that they are dead unless it’s required for some reason just seems unnecessarily cruel.” He looked at the women standing around. “I’ll be blunt. This isn’t something I enjoy doing. It is something that I have to do, and I have to do it regularly and I have to do it well. While I will stretch the limits of my power because that’s what I do, that’s it. This is not going to be something that I focus on more than necessary. I have no plans to build an army of mindless undead even if they’d make great shock troops for the clan.”
“Good,” Kasumi said. “I love you and I accept you completely, Iain. Since this is necessary, I accept it too as a part of you. But it is about all of this that I could accept. And I implore you not to teach Dominique or the others what they can learn of this. If we must have a necromancer, let it be you since you must be one. But we need no others.”
“Unless circumstances change, I don’t see any reason to refuse such a reasonable request,” Iain replied. He looked at Kerrik. “Do I need to raise more of them tonight?”
“Let’s leave it at one and see what happens with you over the next few days. I don’t think you’ll have to do this more than once a moon unless your power suddenly grows uncontrollable and I don’t see that happening. You are powerful and you may have to raise several of them in a night to keep your power quiescent when you want it to stay that way. But maybe you won’t and we won’t know for sure unless we do a little experimenting. Still, you will now be able to put any animated rabbits back to being dead and finish butchering them.”
Kasumi shuddered. “I think not,” she said firmly. “I, for one, would not want to eat formerly animated meat.”
Kerrik laughed. “That’s a personal thing. It’s just meat. But as far as I’m concerned here, we’re done tonight, and Iain passed. I want to observe his next few animations, but I don’t think I’ll find anything more than some nitpicking to discuss with him.” He shook his head. “I may have to leave soon to go deal with my sister and see if she’ll meet you. Once again you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have been able to so well and so quickly and my daughters will pay attention to that.”
“Yay.” Iain rubbed his eyes with his free hand since Kasumi didn’t show any signs of giving up his other one anytime soon. “I wonder if I should come up with my list of requirements now and give it to you to pass along.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Requirements?”
“Your sister is a truewizard. Until she rejects me, that means any other woman will have to be a truewizard too so they can at least be competitive. I see no reason to marry less. While this will tie our families together, I also want it to strengthen my family.”
Kerrik grinned. “Well said. Can I tell the others and start the teeth gnashing?”
“Sure. But does it mean that Tanika and Magdalene might go home to get some of their sisters and cousins? Drake’s family is a lot bigger than yours is.”
Kerrik frowned. “You could be right about them reaching out to their extended family.” He made a humming noise. “I have to go.” He took Raven’s hand and they vanished.
Kasumi frowned. “Did you just convince Kerrik to go get his sister now?”
“I hope I did. If we can do the manipulating for a change then maybe we can get some control of the situation back. Right now I’d love to think I had some control over what’s happening.” He looked around. “Does anyone want me to raise another one?”
“No,” Kasumi said. “How about instead we go home and use our remaining time for sleep?”
“I envy that, you know.”
“All napping at night does is make me groggy and my mood mercurial. You,” he smiled. “You can nap with the best of them.”
“I learned as headmistress that sleep was to be welcomed whenever the opportunity availed.” She looked at Pandora. “Can we get a lift home or would you like the Indigos to discover that Iain the Terrible is within their grasp?”
Iain looked at her curiously. “Do they really call me that?”
“Don’t sound so eager for them to label you as such,” Lucifer said as she took Kasumi’s hand. “Or we can whisper in their ears that they start.”
“I’ll pass then. If I have to get them to do it, after all I’ve already done, it won’t feel real.” Pandora laughed and took his hand as Kasumi finally released him. Then all four vanished.
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