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Kasserine watched as Iain held out his hand and a book flowed down his skin from under his shirt sleeve into it, forming from a tattoo into a tome as it did. “What magic is this?”
“This book is a way for beginning truewizards to learn to harness and control their magic. The book will seek out or call to it those who haven’t a teacher and give guidance on how to develop their abilities and not harm anyone they don’t want to. You start with the first book and, when you finish it, it helps you create the second book and so on. Each new book is geared towards what things interest you at the time you create the book. An important thing to remember, however, is that while it is an invaluable aid, it is limited to those interests and you should stretch beyond what the book can teach you to widen your focus and learn more than what the books cover.”
“So this is your book, based on what your interests were at the time you created it?”
Iain nodded. “And it stores within it all of the books you’ve created along with the first book. The tattoo storage is the way you can keep it on you without it being cumbersome. Or you can put it on a shelf somewhere, but I keep mine with me so when I get a few minutes I can do some studying.”
“What happens if it is taken away from you?”
“I can call it back to me. It can’t be destroyed by anything less than another truewizard and I believe that even then it can be recreated by the wizard it’s tuned to. For those who aren’t like us, the pages are blank and useless, so a thief might toss it into a fire when he or she realizes this, but that won’t hurt it in the slightest.”
“How can we find a copy for me and Ava?”
“When you create the second book, part of the process involves creating another copy of the first book as well. That book then will move itself to another part of the world to await the birth of the truewizard who will need it. But I can use my first book,” the book in his hand changed as he called his first book forth, “to create new first books for you and Ava.”
“This is quite a gift, Iain. Why would you do this for us?”
“There are three reasons for me to do so,” Iain said. “The first is enlightened self-interest. If you join my family, either because I marry Ava or because I marry you, then I want you to become as powerful as you can. That and control is important to keep us from destroying ourselves. If you’re family, I certainly want you to live as long as you want to. The second reason is that even if you don’t join my family, Kerrik is my friend and I know that for you and Ava to become more powerful will make him less worried about your survival.”
She raised an eyebrow when he paused. “What is the third reason?”
“There is something where I originally came from called paying it forward. It means that if someone does a good deed for you, instead of repaying that someone, you instead do a good deed for someone else.” He turned the book over in his hands. “I will never know who created this book for me, but I owe them a lot for helping me to keep from harming the people I love. I have already created the book to replace this one, which is all I am obligated to do, but that debt is so vast that I decided a long time ago that if I can help other beginning truewizards survive by giving them their own first books, I will.”
Kasserine leaned forward to rest a hand on his arm. “Your daughters are right when they tell you there is goodness within you, Iain.”
He shrugged. “I’m not so sure about that. It’s not like I’ll run across hundreds of beginning truewizards in my lifetime.”
“Doesn’t that depend on how long you live and how widely you travel?”
Iain put his book down on the table. “I suppose that’s true enough.”
“How long will you live? The dragons of this world can live longer than elves do.”
Iain shrugged. “When you create your second book, there is another thing that you do besides making a new first book for someone else. That is a long ritual which essentially balances your life’s energy. It more or less makes you immortal unless you decide to die or die by violence. So I am pretty much immortal and you and Ava will become that way as well.”
“What of your family,” she asked quietly.
“Using some other scientific principles that also haven’t been discovered yet by elven sages, there is a technological way to extend a life at its prime of health forever unless they too decide to die or die by violence. All of the inner clan has or will soon receive that treatment. I would like you and Ava to undergo it as well. I’ve already had it.”
“Why? If we are to live forever with our magic, why would we also want to live forever with this technology?”
“It has other advantages. It gives you an internal advisor who will seek to make your life as good as possible for you. That will be an immense help for Ava and possibly for you. It will also make your memory perfect and it will make you immune to disease and poisons. The balancing makes us immune to them too, but that’s because we can resist the effects. We still can suffer through them. Having a twee, which is this technology, will reduce the suffering to almost nothing. I can drink pure alcohol and never get the slightest bit drunk. I still drink wines, but only for the flavor or to be social. It also enhances our bodies. Eventually you will be able to create the same enhancements with magic, but this will give you them almost immediately while the magical version will probably take you years to become proficient enough to use it on yourself.”
“How long have you been studying this magic?”
“Between the self-study with the books and tutelage under my instructors, I’ve been studying truewizardry for nearly twenty years. Even with all of that time, I’m just scratching the surface of what I will eventually be able to do.”
Kasserine smiled. “My instruction under the tutelage of my teacher of elven magic lasted a little more than a century and it only lasted for that short of a time because I was very quick in my studies.”
Iain chuckled. “If it takes me that long I’m not going to have enough money to pay you the whole time.”
She smirked at him. “Hopefully by then you’ll have found a way to have a regular income. If you’re married to Ava, I will demand it.”
“What if I’m married to you?”
Her smirk turned into a quick grin. “Then I will demand it even more.” The bell rang, forestalling Iain’s response. Kasserine frowned. “Would Kerrik ring the bell when he returned?”
“It’s not him,” Iain said as he picked up his book and it flowed back onto his skin. “It’s four elves, three of which are Sun elves and one Moon elf. Three of them are women and all of them are wearing a brown tabard with a horse’s head on it.” He smiled when she looked surprised. “It’s the same magic I used to see Ava when she was eavesdropping on our conversation.”
Kasserine made a motion and the bell outside rang in response. “You described servants of the High Council. If you’ll excuse me, this shouldn’t take long.”
“I’m going with you.” When she looked surprised again he smiled. “Sword, bow and shield, remember? We face them together.”
She glanced at the hallway that lead to the front door. “I should tell you this isn’t your business but all I can say is thank you.” She motioned him to join her as she headed for the front door. “You don’t have any weapons, although I did see a knife when you cut off Ava’s shirt.”
“Rest assured that I am not unarmed. If I don’t need weapons for this, I’ll demonstrate later.” Iain stepped back into the doorway to the hall and leaned against the frame.
As she stepped into the entranceway the bell rang several more times and someone banged hard on the door with a heavy fist. She shook her head before opening the door. “Good morning. I won’t greet you but come inside.”
All four tromped into the tiny entranceway. While wearing tabards of the High Council, the quality suggested that these weren’t high ranking servants. The male, one of the Sun elves, thrust a scroll at her. “This is for you,” he said harshly. “Read it here in front of us.”
One of the women looked at Iain as Kasserine broke the seal. “Who are you,” she demanded.
“I’m nobody important unless your associate over there doesn’t start using some manners towards the lady of the house.”
That got the attention of the other two women. “That sounds like a threat,” one of them said.
“It isn’t,” Iain replied calmly without moving from where he was leaning. “I don’t make threats. They’re almost as rude as your friend over there is. I don’t like rudeness.”
One of the women fingered a club hanging from her belt. “She’s no lady and we represent the High Council. They’re all powerful people.”
“That lady over there,” Iain said calmly, “was born a princess. Princesses know really powerful people. People who put what you think is power into a perspective that doesn’t make them look nearly as powerful and protective as you believe. Princesses know people that High Councilors bow and scrape to and who wouldn’t hesitate for an instant at forgiving something terrible happening to four low level servants, especially if it could save them from something terrible happening to them.”
“We are here on official council business,” one of the women snarled.
“And I would never dream of interfering in your official business,” Iain replied just as calmly as before. “I just would hope that you could be polite about it.”
Kasserine was watching the discussion and so was the male elf, who scowled. “What is this about?”
The third elven woman, who hadn’t spoke, turned to Kasserine, “Mistress, please read the scroll. We have to witness both the reading and your reply.”
One of the other women leaned close to her. “What are you doing,” she hissed in a voice that Iain shouldn’t have been able to hear.
“Look at the quality of his clothes,” the polite elf whispered back. “It’s linen and see how tight the weave is.”
Iain didn’t smile as the second elf looked him over carefully. Kasserine had gone back to reading the scroll. She looked up. “I’m being given a moon from the next full moon to move out, which is in a week. Most of the money I spent on buying this house will be returned to me.”
“Is that acceptable to you,” Iain asked.
“Those are the conditions set forth,” the male elf snapped. “You can’t change the High Council’s decree.”
Iain eyed him curiously. “The High Council is not yet aware that I am in their fair city,” he said calmly. “If I wish to see them, they will see me. If I ask them to reconsider their decision about the lady here, they will hear me out. Whether they will change their minds is something else, but they will hear me out.”
The first woman, the one who had demanded to know who he was, gave the male elf a worried look before turning to Iain. “Sir,” she asked politely, “may we know who you are?”
Iain smiled at her. “I appreciate your request, but right now knowing who I am would probably bring you more trouble than it would good. You are too young and in the wrong part of the kingdom to recognize my original name, even if I used it anymore, and agents of the royal family don’t get mentioned in the histories that any of us learn.” He shrugged. “I suppose I could show you a badge or something else identifying me, but then I would have to officially notice how this meeting with the lady over there started, which none of us wants me to do. I am content if the lady over there is content with the way your behavior has improved.”
“The terms that the High Council have offered me are fair enough,” Kasserine said. “And these fine people are doing their jobs. I have no complaint about them.”
“Excellent.” Iain motioned for the first elf woman to come to him. She cautiously approached and her eyes went wide when Iain dropped a small pile of gold coins into her hand. “Divide these up among your associates however rank dictates,” he said quietly. “You did not see me. I am not here and there was no talk of royalty and of royal agents. There will be no whispers of me, not even to the High Council.”
She looked at the coins. Even divided up between the four of them it was a month’s good living for each of them. “Understood, sir. We’ll be quiet.”
“She has read the message and given her response, which you have witnessed,” Iain said. “If there is nothing else, then I believe your business here is complete.”
She clenched her fist around the coins. “I bid you a good day, lady and sir,” she said as she turned to her group. “Let’s go.”
Kasserine waited until the door closed behind them before turning around. “I realize that you were careful to not say you were a royal assassin, but you were telling the truth when you said that the High Council would see you and hear you out if you wanted them to. How is this possible?”
Iain grinned as he pushed away from the wall. “Oh, they’d see me if I insisted. I’d probably have to have them all kidnapped and brought to a location in a warehouse somewhere in the city, but they’d see me.”
Kasserine stared at him. “You can have them kidnapped?”
“I’d only do it if it was really necessary. It is rude and I’m not trying to make trouble.”
“May I ask how you could have them kidnapped? Is this about my son?”
Iain pulled up his sleeve to reveal a brilliant gold tattoo of a Dragoness. “This is Aurum and she would bring them to me if I asked her to. This is something else Kerrik didn’t want me to tell you about, probably not until after Ava and I are married.” He smiled slightly. “Or until I’m married to you or both of you or whatever.”
Kasserine leaned over but carefully didn’t touch the tattoo as she peered at it. “Why are you showing it to me then?”
“I think you need to know these kinds of things beforehand. Do you know what a lich is?”
Kasserine looked surprised. “I do. I’m astonished you do, but my family had a baelnorn in its past. It guarded my sister and her family but it answered some questions I had about our family’s history.”
“On the world I lived on before moving to the world I live on now, there was an evil druid who became a lich. Among other things, including wiping out an entire civilization, he kidnapped and murdered six women, including Aurum, and turned them into servant liches of his. After he was destroyed, his servant liches languished for several years, but while doing so they prevented a king from getting to his throne room. One of this king’s subjects was a woman named Dominique, who is now a member of my family. In return for her freedom from Marcus, the king I mentioned, I took control of the servant liches and removed them from his throne room. I kept them and gave them back their personalities. One of them was destroyed protecting me, but the others are still my servants. Later, we faced a problem with another pair of powerful liches and so we took the bodies of people we had to kill and added them to the ranks of my servant liches until they were powerful enough to capture these two powerful liches. Later we destroyed both of them.”
“Are they baelnorn?”
“No, they’re not nice ladies, but they serve me and I don’t let them rampage around.”
“How do they serve you?” She was examining the tattoo closely. “She has mammalian breasts.” Her eyes flicked up to peer into his.
“She’s a pokegirl, like most of the others in my undead harem. All pokegirls were designed to be sexually attractive to someone. I’m not into necrophilia.”
Kasserine raised an eyebrow. “Harem?”
“Their term. Right now they guard me, do magical research, run errands for me and once stole most of the books of an abandoned city to put in my library.”
“If the city is abandoned, how is recovering things from it stealing?”
“The country it was in didn’t see it that way. They feel everything within their borders belongs to them.”
Kasserine laughed. “Countries usually do. Let us return to the dining room and our tea. I wish to check on Ava and make sure she is resting comfortably.”
Iain followed her back towards the dining room. “What about the liches?”
“You are their commander, are you not?”
“Is your command absolute?”
“Then if I can accept you, I can accept them.” She looked back at him and smiled at his obvious surprise. “The assassins my sister the queen employed were not good people but the things she had them do was for the betterment of Evermeet and my family. As her sister and, for a time, heir, I understand that tools must be capable of doing the work they were forged for.” She looked sadly at him. “Even if it is how I was able to help turn my son into what he is today.”
Iain gave her a curious look. “What happened to the baelnorn that served your family now that your sister’s line is almost dead? You, Kerrik and Ava are all that’s left of it.”
Kasserine stopped dead. “I do not know. I know it remained in the house my family lived in before my sister took the throne but I do not know what happened to it after I was banished from the clan.”
“I guess it doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter. Selsharra was my maternal great grandmother and she served my family, not the clan. She is part of Ava’s heritage and also Kerrik’s as well.” She grabbed his hand and continued to the dining room. “Would Kerrik investigate what happened to her if I asked?”
“Kasserine, he would indeed, if you asked him to. I’d try if you asked me to, but I wouldn’t know where to begin looking. I don’t know much about Evermeet or the clan your family came from.”
We could probably track all the powerful undead in the area of her former home, my lord, Eirian said, and locate this creature if it is there, but making contact with it might be much more problematic.
I am not risking you on this.
Eirian’s satisfaction at his concern for her wellbeing was in her response. Yes, my lord.
“I have not been in contact with them in several centuries,” Kasserine said. “The leader of the clan was very happy to banish me with only a pittance of the possessions that should have been for my children. I have come to accept what happened, and will forge a new future with Ava,” she smiled suddenly, “and now you and my son.”
Iain slid his finger over the display of his phone, advancing to the next photo. “And this is Olivia, Seraphina, their mother Lucifer and me.”
It was after breakfast and his run the morning after Ava had been hurt. They were sitting on the grass under the shade of a large oak. Ava was leaning against him on his right side with her head on his shoulder while Kasserine was sitting on his left closely enough that their hips touched. Ava laughed softly. “They look so happy. They obviously adore you.”
The girls each had one of Iain’s hands and Seraphina was also holding Lucifer’s hand. “You have to remember that they had their mother for their entire long life of six whole years,” Iain said amusedly. “They’ve had me for only a short time in comparison and so I’m their favorite parent at this particular moment.”
“Does it change,” Ava asked.
“Definitely,” Iain replied. “When I make them do chores or homework that they’re not interested in, I’m certainly not their favorite parent then.”
Kasserine chuckled. “Ava is that way too. She just never had a second parent to compare me against.”
Ava scowled at her mother for a second. “Show us the next picture, Iain.”
He did. “And this is one of all of the children together. I remember this fiasco. Getting everyone to sit still at the same time was quite the undertaking.”
“And there’s Kasumi,” Ava said.
Iain nodded. “She’s the only reason they’re all still. She has a wonderful way with children. They respond to her in ways they won’t with almost anyone else.” He advanced the photo. “And that’s the last family picture.”
Ava leaned forward slightly, spilling her hair over his side and down his chest. “What is that?” She pulled her hair back and put her head back on his shoulder.
“That’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex,” Iain answered. He moved to the next photo. “And here it is dead after it decided I would make a tasty snack.”
“It is quite formidable looking,” Kasserine said quietly. “Killing it must have been very difficult.”
“I have some weapons that are very effective against large animals,” Iain closed the phone’s gallery. “I trapped it at the bottom of a cliff with me at the top where it couldn’t get to me and killed it there. I wouldn’t have killed it at all if I could have avoided it since it was such a waste of meat, but it was pretty insistent that one of us wasn’t going to survive our meeting, and in a situation like that I’ll always let my opponent die first. The first time I got it to the base of that cliff I left it there and headed away but it circled around and tried to eat me before I lured it back to the cliff so I could kill it.”
“I want to see more pictures,” Ava protested.
“Iain said that he would show us pictures of things that weren’t family later,” Kasserine said as she slid away from Iain and stood. “Right now he’s showing us things important for our decisions about him and us, remember?”
Ava sighed. “Soon?”
“We have to get a wagon and crates for packing after this,” Kasserine pointed out. “And you have to introduce Iain to Dancer as well as procure some moon horses willing to pull the wagon, if any are, and that before I buy the wagon or we’ll be pulling it home in their place.”
“Are there other horses in Evermeet besides the moon horses,” Iain asked as he got up.
“There are a few,” Kasserine said. “Here they are much rarer than the moon horses and are primarily raised for their meat, which is a delicacy to some. There are more in the kingdoms on the mainland and some use them as steeds like the humans do. Would you prefer them to the moon horses?”
Iain shook his head. “If intelligent beings want to pull the wagon it’ll make the job of driving it easier. Now what do you want to know about me next?”
“Ava needs to know about Aurum and the others,” Kasserine said. “She knows what a lich is from her lessons.”
Iain pulled his sleeve up. “I control some liches who protect me and do my bidding. They can be tattoos so I can take them with me without most people suspecting I’m not alone.”
Ava looked at it and then at him. “Are there more of them on you now?”
She grinned. “Take off your tunic.” Iain raised an eyebrow and her grin widened. “You’ve seen me without a shirt. It’s only fair that I get to see you the same way.”
Iain looked at Kasserine for some help with the situation but the sudden interest in her eyes told him he wasn’t going to find any from her. “Very well, ladies.” He stripped off his tunic, folded it up and laid it on the grass.
Ava blinked in surprise. “You have a lot of tattoos.”
“I don’t have any normal tattoos,” Iain said with smile. “Each one that you see is actually something else. The ones that look like pokegirls are members of my undead harem, the book is my truewizard book and the tree is something I haven’t explained yet.”
Kasserine was looking him over. “You are very fit,” she murmured approvingly. “Your trainers have been very diligent with you.” She smiled. “I had thought you were not unduly stressed by the two morning runs we have done so far.”
Iain nodded. “I do a lot of running, swimming and flying every week.”
“Flying,” Ava asked curiously.
“I am a dragon, remember?”
Ava laughed. “I’d forgotten.”
Aurum, I am going to call you off of my arm, Iain told her through their bond. Please be more submissive than usual, if you would.
I understand, my lord. I will not frighten these unduly until they are already ensnared by you.
“Aurum, come forth.”
Golden smoke poured from his arm and formed into the Dragoness who was on one knee with her head down and her wings folded tightly. “My lord,” she intoned formally. “Command me.”
“Rise, Aurum,” Iain said. “I want you to meet Kasserine and Ava. Please answer their questions.”
Aurum rose gracefully and turned to the two elves. “I am Aurum, second of the Original Five in my lord’s undead harem.”
Iain managed not to react at the confirmation that even his undead harem was full of status conscious pokegirls. He’d already known they were ambitious bitches, of course.
Ava was staring at Aurum. “You’re naked. Is this because of him?”
Aurum chuckled as she shook her head. “When I lived, before I was stolen and murdered by my slayer, I never wore clothes. At that time in the history of the court I was stolen from, under the rule of the queen, all clothing for the pokegirls in her guard had to be earned as we entered her guard and progressed up its ranks. After my death and subsequent undeath, I was never offered clothes. Others in the undead harem wear clothes. My lord would allow me to wear them if I wished to, but I see no reason for them. I am still shaped like a female, but I am no more female than the dagger on your belt.” She smiled amusedly, managing not to look terrifying as she did. “I am much more like the dagger, although within the limits of my lord’s orders I have volition, which the dagger does not as it is nonmagical.”
Kasserine was frowning. “Within the limits of your lord’s orders? What does that mean?”
“I am a lich. I am a pokegirl. Both seek power. As a lich, I have no compunctions to limit how I acquire that power. My lord has given me limits that I might serve his purposes instead of my own. For example, there is a powerful magical weapon in Kasserine’s room. I sense its power and I sense that I could bend it to my will. It would be useful to me, it is not well protected and without my lord’s limitations I would have already taken it.”
Kasserine’s eyes flicked to Iain. “Iain knows about my sword?”
“My lord knows now that I have spoken of it and you have confirmed its existence. He is not a thief and he would not set us to rob those who have not given him harm, especially not a woman he seeks to marry.”
“Iain is here to court Ava,” Kasserine said with another glance at Iain.
“My lord is a greedy drake,” Aurum replied. “Initially he did not consider you available, but Ava informed him that you were, and you have not denied it. He is intrigued by both of you and is already courting you both.”
“Aurum,” Iain said warningly.
The Dragoness chuckled. “My lord, did you not ask me to answer their questions? I presumed you wished them answered truthfully.” Iain just sighed and smacked himself in the forehead with a gentle fist.
“What’s a drake,” Ava asked.
“A drake is a male dragon,” Aurum replied. Her head came up and she hissed. “My lord, magic is being used to seek undead. I may have been sensed by a mage or priest of some kind.”
“Back on my arm,” Iain held out his arm and she turned back into smoke that poured onto him. “Experience has shown that they can’t be detected when they’re on me.”
Kasserine gave him a grim look. ‘If it’s one of the High Wizards, they might still be detected.”
Iain nodded. “That would be bad. I’d have to either flee or fight the wizard and I don’t really want to do either. How long would it take for us to know if I have to leave?”
“I believe we would have already had a visitor if Aurum had been found out,” Kasserine said. “What is special about the tree tattoo?”
I showed you a picture of Ninhursag,” Iain replied.
“She’s the one with the beautiful silver hair,” Ava said. “And is so big.” She glanced at her chest. “Everywhere.”
“The evil wizard who created pokegirls apparently liked large breasts, for many of them are that way,” Iain was trying not to laugh. “I care for each of my women as they are.” Iain sighed mentally when she didn’t look convinced. “You’re a beautiful woman, Ava.”
“You’re just saying that,” she muttered.
“I am not. I am telling you the truth and if you don’t believe me you can ask your mother. If I were lying, she’d know it because of her ring and she’s probably throw something heavy at my head for lying to you about something that important.”
“He would already be bleeding,” Kasserine said cheerfully as she moved next to Iain. “He thinks you’re beautiful because you are, Ava.”
Iain put his hands on Ava’s shoulders. “I want you to listen carefully to me,” he said quietly. “You said several times that some of the women in my family are beautiful.”
Ava was looking into his eyes. “They are.”
“I agree. Each of them is beautiful to me. You are just as beautiful as any of them.” He stroked her cheek gently and smiled when she leaned into his touch. “I know you’ve been teased about your eyes for most of your life, but I will never do that to you and I won’t put up with others doing it when I do know about it. Something else you will learn about me is that I will lie to you,” she frowned, “but I will never lie to you about how I feel or think about you. If you’re ever unsure, you can ask me and I will tell you the truth.”
“What if you’re angry at me about something?”
“Then I will tell you how I feel about whatever it is that I am upset about and, hopefully, we can resolve whatever it is in a way where nobody is angry at the end of it. It doesn’t mean we’ll both be happy at the end of our dispute, but if nobody is angry then I’ll call that a win. If you’re upset at me about something, I need you to tell me because I cannot yet read minds. Even if I could, I wouldn’t read yours.”
“Because I like you and poking around in someone’s mind without permission is rude and very wrong. I wouldn’t do that to you and I’ll teach you some ways to keep others from doing it to you. Besides, if you’ve gotten me a nice present, I want it to be a surprise to me when you give it to me.”
“You like me?”
“I do. I like you a lot, and not because of anything having to do with Kerrik. I don’t have to marry anyone here. I came here to meet you and it turns out I like you.”
“Do you like my mother too?”
“You love your mother very much, don’t you?” Ava nodded slowly. “Is her happiness as important as yours to you?”
“Well, it just so happens that after you pointed her out to me, I have been thinking about it and I happen to like her too.”
“She likes you.” Iain heard Kasserine inhale sharply next to him and with his perception he could see her suddenly wide eyes. “She has never let anyone stay with us before. She knows you could stay in an inn but she wants you to stay here.”
“That’s very nice to know,” Iain said, “but you should have let her tell me this when she was ready to. What I need to know from you is do you like me?” She nodded against his palm. “That’s very nice to know too. I don’t take my shirt off for every woman who tells me to.” He gently pulled his hand away. “Do you believe me when I say you’re beautiful?”
“Yes.” She seemed surprised at the admission and nodded. “I do.”
“Good, because you are. If anyone says you’re not, they’re probably jealous of you. If you tell me about it, I’ll probably get upset at them and do something I’ll regret.”
“What would you do?”
“I’d probably kick them in the groin.”
She looked shocked. “Why?”
“Because I’d need to get their attention and that usually works.” She giggled, and he looked at Kasserine “Now I believe you had a question about this tattoo,” he touched the omega tree tattoo.
She gave him a grateful smile. “I do.”
“As I’ve told you, Ninhursag is an Elfqueen and they have the ability to talk to plants. With that ability, they can ask a tree to give them a weapon made from a piece of the tree. This weapon is infused with its own life and pairs with the Elf or Elfqueen to form a synergy like that between some of the very powerful magic items and their users. It often takes the form of a bow and a quiver and inside the quiver the arrows grow from the bottom and are made entirely of wood and leaves, but the tips are still very, very sharp and will punch through armor.” He rotated his arm to show the tattoo. “Non elves do not ever get this honor and to get to handle an Elf’s living bow or sword is a sign of almost absolute trust. However, one day I was given a living weapon from a special tree.” The tattoo slid down his arm and he was suddenly holding his staff. “As far as we know, I am the first person who is not an Elf pokegirl who was given a living weapon and I almost died during the presentation. Mine, however, is very special indeed and can become other things as I want it to.” The staff became a black and silver sword and then a black and silver knife. “I used this to cut Ava’s shirt off when she was hurt. While it’s made of wood, it is hard enough and sharp enough to notch steel weapons and so I don’t use it for practice.” It shifted again, becoming his compound bow. “And it can become my bow.”
“That doesn’t look like a bow,” Kasserine said. “It’s too short for even a recurve bow and those wheels won’t work.”
Iain smiled. “I will compete with this bow against you and your best bow any time. I may not win, but you will know you’ve been in a contest when we’re done.”
“Well said,” Kasserine chuckled. “And now I have to compete against you and your confidence in your unusual bow. Tomorrow morning, instead of running we will shoot.” She turned to her daughter. “Now you must speak with Dancer and ask her for help with the wagon I have to go purchase. Iain will come with me so he can see more of elven society than he has so far.”
“Yes, Mother.” Ava rushed inside.
Iain carried a box into the house and placed it with the small pile of others while reflecting on the differences between this place and the world he grew up on. On his world, a DITY move, which he’d done in the military and meant Do IT Yourself, involved renting a U-Haul or other type of moving trailer or truck and buying a bunch of flat cardboard boxes (or getting them from a retail store that was throwing them away), packing tape, some kind of cushioning agent like bubble wrap or packing peanuts and other incidentals. You put together the boxes and began packing your belongings, which you loaded on the truck or trailer and then drove to where you unloaded it and reversed the processes. And that was what you did in a putatively first world nation. In other nations or if you were poorer, you packed what would fit in your vehicle and got rid of the rest or you made multiple trips if the distance you were moving was short enough.
Like the citizens of most pre-industrial societies, the vast majority of elves never left the city or community they were born into. However, some few did have to move somewhere else, usually due to attending a special school or an apprenticeship to a career that didn’t have any local representatives. For these unlucky few, as he’d learned earlier in the day, here, in the current height of elven power and technology, which was somewhat medieval at best, the process was simple. Unless you were unbearably rich, you bought a wagon if you didn’t already own one, which Kasserine had done. If you were reasonably well off, a lot of what you owned was already in chests where it could be protected against the elements, insects, other vermin and possibly thieves. This meant it was already packed for travel and was the case for much of Kasserine and Ava’s possessions since at one time they weren’t as poor as they were now. But for everything else you had to commission barrels, boxes or trunks to be built. They came in only a few standard sizes and couldn’t be picked up when you ordered them. The cooper or woodworker would get to your order in a timely fashion, although for a significant surcharge your order would be prioritized over other orders that hadn’t been started, but unless the purchaser was nobility who could pay to have someone else’s property warehoused, the builder still had to finish the current job because he didn’t have space to store unfinished work while building more.
Kasserine had managed to buy a handful of finished boxes, which had gone into the wagon she’d located.
If you were really unlucky, the wagon had to be built too, but here Kasserine had managed to procure a used wagon and tack. For a small fee, she’d arranged to have the wagon driven to her home and parked to the side of the house.
Because of Iain, the wagon she’d purchased had been the third she’d looked at. With his perception, Iain had seen the large amount of dry rot in the axles and walls of the first wagon and quietly taken her off to the side to explain what he’d discovered. This had alerted Kasserine to look for the external signs of the damage, which she’d quickly found in spite of the owner’s attempts to hide them. She’d walked away from the negotiations with the owner of the second wagon when he wanted an exorbitant price far beyond what it was worth.
Kasserine had actually wanted the wagon to be parked in the garden near the back door leading into the house, but the driver had been adamant that he was only supposed to deliver the wagon to the house and then return to his master’s business. He quickly unhitched the horses and rode one of them off while leading the other three.
Kasserine had watched the driver leave before looking at Iain. “I wanted it in the garden so we could easily unload the boxes. Teaching the moon horses to pull a wagon is going to be work enough that I didn’t want to try to start them with backing the wagon into position in the garden. But it’s too heavy for us to easily move.”
Iain regarded the wagon with distaste. “Can you harness a horse?”
She glanced at him. “I can. If I couldn’t I’d have to hire someone to drive.”
“Can you cast illusion spells to mask appearances?”
“Yes, I can. Why?”
“Because I have an equine form that should be able to move the wagon after you make me look like a moon horse and put me in harness. You still need the full team to do this right, but right now the wagon is empty except for some empty crates so it shouldn’t be too heavy and so if I let you put me in harness you and I should be able to move the wagon into the garden where you want it.”
Kasserine put her hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to do this, Iain.”
“You’re moving to my land, I can help and you can use it. Stop telling me not to offer my help. It’s not going to work and you’re going to have to get used to the fact that someone likes you and doesn’t think you’re a monster or an easy lay.”
She looked into his eyes. “Why are you doing this? Ava is young and perfect for what you want. And don’t waste your time trying to reassure me that I’m beautiful like you did with Ava. I know I’m beautiful. I’m also a lot older than you are, from what I can tell. So just tell me why you’re also pursuing me.” She gave him a slightly anxious smile. “If you are.”
“Well if you want the unvarnished truth, Aurum was right.” He smiled when Kasserine gave him a puzzled look. “I am a greedy drake. If I wasn’t such a greedy drake, my family would be a lot smaller than it is now. Why you? I hadn’t considered you until Ava mentioned the idea. Why did I change my mind and why am I interested? You are beautiful, you’re smart, you’re strong willed, stronger willed than Ava is but it shows what she can become. And finally, when Ava brought the idea up, you didn’t jump to your feet in outrage and announce there was no fucking way this was ever going to happen. Instead you looked thoughtful and then you were quiet because the idea wasn’t repugnant to you, but you never thought I’d seriously consider it or you, which meant you didn’t have to think about it either. Only you were wrong. I did consider it and I decided that I want you as much as I want Ava. You are, in your own way, as much of a jewel as Ava is. Therefore, yes, I am pursuing you, as you put it.”
“Iain,” she began, only to stop as she obviously rethought what she was going to say. “You have already proven you know my past and things that nobody else can possibly know. Then you know I can’t be anyone’s wife. Too much that’s happened to me won’t let that happen. I really wanted a father for Ava, but I couldn’t find a man I could,” she broke off. “And since,” she shrugged.
“The rape that produced Ava was the last time, right?”
Her eyes went wide and she went pale for a second before speaking in a small voice. “Yes. After that I was careful not to ever be alone with a man unless I already knew him and I am never without a very sharp knife.”
“Well, we all do what we have to do in order to be safe,” Iain said, deciding not to point out that she didn’t know him at all, but was alone with him and had been for several hours. “But you and Sofia should get along well since she does the same thing. As for your past, I don’t care about the fact that the opinion of elven society would be against me and you being together.” He grinned. “They’re just elves.” He headed for the back of the house. “As for trusting me, only time will prove if you can or not. Now you get to watch me turn into something that looks vaguely like a horse and then you get to make it look more like a horse.”
“It looks vaguely like a horse,” Kasserine was following “What looks vaguely like a horse?”
“I was trying to become a unicorn and it didn’t go quite right,” he replied. “But it feels right and the unicorns I was associating with have accepted it so I’ve been using it while figuring out what I did wrong so I can actually become a unicorn. And unicorns don’t really look like horses either.”
Kasserine was frowning when he stopped and turned to face her. “Why do you want to become a unicorn?”
“The herd queen is named Golden Cloud,” Iain said with a smile. “She tricked me into agreeing to sire a foal off of her and to keep trying to breed her until she gets pregnant. Unless I want to get a stepladder like I mentioned earlier with the elves and the moon horses that irritated you so much, I have to learn how to become a unicorn.” Kasserine was obviously trying very hard not to laugh it in his face. “Go ahead and get it over with. It’ll make you feel better to laugh.”
Kasserine laughed so hard that she doubled over. Finally, she slowed, gasping for air, “That is funny.”
“At the time it was infuriating, but now I can agree with you. And I can live with the fact that I was outsmarted by a genius level intelligence. At least I wasn’t outsmarted by an orc or a hobgoblin.” He shifted to his dragon horse form. “But this is my vaguely horse form.”
Kasserine stopped laughing and slowly moved towards him to run her hands over his black and silver scales. “Is this reptilian?” She blinked. “I mean draconic,” she said hastily.
Iain chuckled. “I am not going to take offense at your questions, Kasserine. You weren’t being insulting and it does look kind of like some kind of monitor lizard, but these are my scales so technically it’s draconic. Besides, I’m not an ectotherm.”
She frowned again. “What is that?”
“Reptiles like lizards, snakes, turtles and alligators get their body heat from their environment. I am an endotherm like you and I make my own heat.” He shifted his head to look at her. “So can you make me look like a moon horse so we can move the wagon where you want it? I’ll still move it if you can’t, but people might see me and there will be questions.”
“I should be able to but I learned during my lessons that dragons are very resistant to magic.”
“We can be, but I won’t be trying to resist you at all, so you shouldn’t have a problem with this illusion.”
Kasserine was looking at his paws. “Those are not draconic feet.”
“No, they’re not. They’re not split hooves either, like unicorns have. But I have retractile claws as a dragon and I keep them in this form. Having paws protects them from damage unless I want to use them.”
Kasserine cast her spell and stepped back slightly to observe the effect. “You’re too big for a moon horse but otherwise you look like one of the stallions I’ve seen.”
“That’s because moon horses are built like light war horses,” Iain replied. “Can you ride bareback?”
“Then climb on. I want to go for a run to stretch out before I have to wear a harness and I’d appreciate the company.”
“You’re too tall.”
Iain sank down onto his knees. “What about now?”
Kasserine carefully slipped onto his back. “Where are we going,” she asked as he rose and trotted away from the house.
“I’m going for a run. Since I don’t know the area and we don’t have time for exploring, I’ll do a big circle and then we’ll come back. Then you’ll put me in harness so we can move your wagon to where you want it to go. If you have any problems just let me know.” He accelerated smoothly to a lope.
“I am an accomplished rider,” Kasserine told him with pride in her voice.
He snickered. “I’ve heard that before.” Then he shifted to a full sprint.
Ava hung her cloak on the peg and listened to the quiet. It was early evening and her mother should be home. “Mother?”
She relaxed when her mother’s voice responded. “We’re in the kitchen.”
Ava smelled something delicious baking and followed her nose to the kitchen where Iain was washing dishes while Kasserine was making tea. “What are you cooking?”
Kasserine looked at Iain. “What is it called again?”
“Rabbit pot pie. It’s stewed rabbit and vegetables in a pie crust.”
“Dinner will be a little late,” Kasserine said. “But I think it’ll be worth the wait. Set the table, please.”
Ava obediently headed for the cabinets. “Where did we get rabbit?”
“Iain caught it.”
“I wouldn’t say that caught is the right word for what happened,” Iain countered. “We were out running and flushed it. It ran under my feet and got its back broken when I stepped on it. We couldn’t leave the little thing in pain, so I field dressed it and brought it home for dinner.”
“We usually eat fish when we eat meat,” Ava said. “But this smells good.”
“You’ll have the opportunity to eat more meat at my home,” Iain said. “We raise a lot of it for eating or for sale. We also eat fish and lots of vegetables and fruit, some of which is going to be new to you.”
“I like new things.” She leaned against the counter. “Dancer says she understood we were going into exile before I did, and she is still coming and bringing her herd with her. She said that something good was going to happen because of our going to this new place and the herd would be of invaluable help.”
Iain looked over his shoulder at her. “Does this involve some ancient prophecy, a bunch of trees and a goddess?”
“She didn’t say anything about it being that.”
“They don’t until it’s too late,” Iain said suspiciously. “Still, I have to take them at face value. Did you get four of them to pull the wagon?”
“I did. I’ll go get then when we’re ready for them. It’s three older mares and a stallion from the bachelor herd who hopes this will raise his value in Dancer’s eyes.”
Iain just snorted and muttered something under his breath.
Kasserine smacked him gently on the back. “Thank you, Ava. This will help the move a lot.”
“I’m not complaining,” Iain looked over his shoulder at them. “I certainly don’t want to pull the wagon by myself.”
“The only problem I see,” Kasserine said, ignoring Iain while Ava laughed, “is the boxes are going to take longer than I’d hoped to get here. Once they arrive we may be frantically packing everything up until the day we leave. And I need to arrange to sell the furniture.”
“What are we going to do, Mother?”
“What we can, Ava.”
Iain looked over his shoulder again. “If your mother won’t argue with me about it this time, I may be able to help.”
“Were you arguing earlier?”
Kasserine smiled at Ava. “Yes, but I am not going to argue with him now.” She looked at Iain. “And I will get that harness repaired. I didn’t realize it was worn through so badly.”
“Good” Iain said. “I wouldn’t want to inflict that thing on some poor moon horse who just wants to be helpful.” He put the last dish away and washed his hands. “What I was going to suggest is something else. You ladies remember the storage units I have that have the gold and trade goods in, right?”
“Yes,” Kasserine said.
“I can send Aurum or one of the others to get more of them, only they’ll be empty, and we can fill them while we’re waiting for the boxes and chests to be delivered. And if you want to keep this furniture, tell me and I may be able to help with that.” He looked thoughtful. “It’ll mean that a lot of the boxes will have to get moved empty for appearances sake but if we need to we can fill them with stone or metal to make the wagon look like it’s loaded the way that people will expect. While apparently I’ll be opening a gate to my home for us to go through, I want to wait until we’re a comfortable distance from any towns before doing so. I’m sure your High Wizards are very diligent and powerful, but if they interfere I will slaughter them and if I don’t, Kerrik will.”
“They may still detect you opening a gate,” Kasserine said quietly.
“Away from others I think I can keep them from detecting anything. Even if I don’t and they show up spoiling for a fight, in the wilderness I can keep from having to kill everyone involved and there won’t be any bystanders to get in the way.”
“I do not want to have my last memories of Evermeet, as bitter as mine are of this place, to be watching warfare between you and the people of this kingdom. They were my subjects once and are still my people.” She reached out and took his hand. “I do not want to have to see that while thinking about what is between us.”
Ava was staring at them in shock. “There’s something between you?”
Kasserine didn’t look away from him. “Is the table set?”
“Then go wash for dinner.”
Ava hesitated visibly. “Yes, Mother.” She rushed off.
“I will try to avoid combat with the forces of Evermeet,” Iain said quietly. “If I cannot, I will try to keep from hurting any of them unless they hurt someone on our side. After that, I will try not to kill them all, but I will not let them hurt you or Ava.”
Kasserine squeezed his hand tightly and released it. “I can ask for no more than that.”
“Just understand that I am not trying to obligate you to anything by this or anything else.”
She smiled. “You came here out of curiosity about who the sister and mother of Kerrik could be like and because you intend to protect the rest of your family by adding one of us or one of his children to it. Ava will make you a good wife and now that she thinks there is something between you and me that she does not have, she will pursue you.” She saw the question in his eyes and smiled again. “I do not know if there is truly something between us. I like you more than I have liked anyone in a long time. I am alone with you and I feel no fear of you. But I am not ready for more than that.”
“And that’s fine,” Iain replied. “I will be as much or as little of your friend as you will let me. All we can do is see what the unfolding of time brings. But by accepting this, I have given the responsibility for any future we might have to you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You were hurt and more by men. I presume you tried to trust at least some of them.” She nodded. “That means I will not do anything unless you tell me you want me to. And you have to tell me. You cannot hint as another woman might to a man she knows. The last thing I want to do is mistake some sign that you give and hurt you more.”
“If I never tell you?”
“I think we can be friends with what we have now. If that’s all we ever are, then I will accept it without protest. This is about what you need, not about what I might want.”
She nodded. “Will you tell me what you want?”
“Not unless you ask and, even then I may refuse to answer if I feel you really don’t want to hear it.”
“What do you want from me?”
“We’ve just met. I want to get to know you and Ava and see if we can be friends. I think that if we can, you can join my clan and make more friends there, friends you need just as much as Ava does. Most people aren’t meant to be alone and they don’t do well when they are always alone. Other than that, what I might want isn’t important.”
“If we are joining your clan, much less your family, your goals are very important to us. I don’t want to join your clan to find out you intend to invade Evermeet and conquer it.”
“My goals for the clan and what I want are very different, Kasserine.”
She looked surprised. “But you rule. Your will is the clan’s will.”
“I have a command staff and a general staff of advisors to keep me from confusing what the clan needs and what I might want. If you do join the clan you might end up on my general staff.”
She smiled slightly. “But not on the command staff?”
“The command staff is composed of those in direct line to command the clan if something happens to me. I keep them advised of what I plan so they can serve as check on any ambition I might have as well as so they know what I was planning in case I get killed. If that happens, Ninhursag will command the clan and another will be selected to take the place of the last person in the succession so the clan will endure my end. At that point, if you are clan you might well be asked to join it.”
Kasserine looked surprised and then smiled warmly. “If only my family had done such a thing it might still be on the throne. That is very wise. How is succession chosen?”
“The most qualified are asked if they will serve in the line of succession,” Iain replied. “Right now it’s the leaders of the inner and outer harems, but as the harems are merging into just the inner harem they’ll stay in the succession as they are.”
She nodded. “What is the ultimate thing that you would want from me?”
Iain regarded her for a few seconds. “You might not want to hear that.”
“I have asked. If I do not like what I hear, it is not your fault.”
“It goes back to me being that greedy drake I mentioned before,” he said warningly.
“Tell me, Iain.”
“Kerrik is a truewizard. Ava is a truewizard. You are a truewizard. I want both you and Ava to bear me truewizard children. And I don’t mean that you would bear truewizard children into the clan. I want to get both of you pregnant with those children. I want you to have our children.”
“Kerrik told me once that the fact that I have born two children who are like me is a miracle and that it is more likely that my sister will spring from the dead than I would have another child like them.”
Iain nodded, giving her a somber look. “Kerrik is right about the normal odds of that happening. However, I know that you and Ava both will have children like us.”
“How is this possible?”
Iain shrugged. “That depends on who you ask.”
“Is that why you’re here,” Ava said as she stepped around the corner from where she’d been eavesdropping.
“I have not lied to either of you. I came here to court you, Ava, and to see if we could be a couple. I do not and have never intended to force you to join my family or my clan. You made me think about courting Kasserine and she is the kind of woman I like, so I wish to do that as well. But in the end it is because I am a greedy drake and because both of you would make my family so much stronger that not even truewizards would threaten us. That is because both of you can be powerful and also because your children could be powerful.”
“So having us in your clan would be acceptable,” Ava said shrewdly, “but having us in your bed would be what the greedy drake wants most.”
“It doesn’t have to be my bed,” Iain said with a smile. “I could go to yours or we could find a nice place outside.”
“My son does not know what you’ve revealed to us,” Kasserine asked.
“He does not.”
“Why haven’t you told him this? He is your master and you claim he is your friend.”
“He is both,” Iain replied. “And just as I keep the secrets that I know about him and many other people, I keep yours and Ava’s secrets.”
“You are like Kerrik,” Ava said. “We are not important to you as individuals or, at least, we were not before you met us. Why keep this information from my brother?”
“I wrote about him years before I ever was kidnapped. I know him from those notes and those stories. I know you and your mother the same way. I have always liked all three of you and, real or not, I feel a connection with each of you, even when I knew that you were not real. Absurd or not, it’s the truth.”
He filled a wooden goblet with water and chugged it down. “Now I have discovered you’re real. I never hoped to meet you, but I would no more betray your secrets to anyone then I would betray my secrets. And that anyone includes your powerful and manipulative son who, for most of his life, has loved his mother without liking her very much.” He looked at Ava. “And you he would most certainly use as a bargaining chip, just like he’s doing now with me.”
Ava nodded. “If I am your wife then his secrets are safe. But you said his secrets are already safe.”
“He can’t trust that,” Iain said simply. “Because of his childhood, he seeks to control all the situations around him and right now that includes me. You are his chosen tool to blunt the threat he feels I present. He feels that if I am married to you I have a reason to not betray him and, hopefully, if I were inclined to do so, you’d stop me or tell him.”
“I feel so guilty about what happened to him,” Kasserine said heavily. “He is my son and I helped them.”
“Most of what happened to him were things you were not then and still aren’t aware of,” Iain said gently. “In any case, all you can do now is accept him as he is and love him as much as you can, if you’re willing to.”
“Do you know what happened to my son?”
“I do. It’s in my notes. I’m sure it’s not everything, but I know a lot more than you do.”
Iain shook his head. “No.”
“I become what he fears I will if I reveal anything about him that he doesn’t want revealed, even if it’s to you,” Iain said. “If he wants something revealed to you, he can tell you. That way I don’t have to die.” He checked the stove. “And the pot pie looks ready to take out. I’ll set it up to cool for a few minutes and then we can eat.” He smiled at Kasserine. “I have washed up and you told Ava to wash up, but you still need to go wash.”
Ava giggled and put on a serious face, but the amusement in her voice ruined it. “Yes, Mother.”
Kasserine laughed and headed for the washroom.
The door to his guest room did not have a lock, but Iain had brought some modern solid rubber door wedges with him. He shoved four of them under the door to block it securely. Then he kicked off his boots and settled down on the bed as he pulled out his phone.
How are things going with my sister and mother? It was Kerrik using his twee.
Iain sighed. They both seem to like me but I can’t tell lies from truth the easy way like everyone else seems to be able to. Ava isn’t as bad as she will be so that helps but your mother is as broken as you are.
Iain flopped back on the bed with a groan. Do you want to play games or do you want to be realistic and get a briefing? I’m bullshitted out.
Briefly explain how you think I’m broken.
Iain growled loudly. I am here because you must control the things around you. You don’t feel I can be trusted not to betray you unless I stand to lose something I love and you want me to love Ava and possibly Kasserine. You hope one or the other will stop me or betray me to you if I try to betray you. You are almost certain that your mother’s guilt about what she did will make her betray me to you in such a situation which is why you didn’t put your foot down when Ava suggested I court her too. That and she’s important to you and Ava not so much since you don’t know anything about her yet.
There was silence for several seconds. Accepted as fact. What is wrong with my mother?
She’s had exactly zero healthy relationships, including the one with you. As many people would do in her situation, she feels that at least part of what happened is her fault. So she’s terrified of what I might offer. If I win her trust, it’ll be absolute like Sofia’s is.
If I had done what I wanted to do and destroyed you when we met, you would not have been able to help my harem and now my mother and my sister, not to mention Shikarou, Magdalene and, for all I know, me. Help them like you have already helped so many of my family.
Iain sat up. Shikarou?
Ygerna was poison for him. Kasumi’s happiness is important because she is my granddaughter’s mother and her unhappiness at her situation was beginning to cause problems with the rest of his family. He’s finally started paying attention to the world around him, hopefully in time to help with what’s coming with the ferals, if only to protect his own people, who are not nearly as safe as he thought they were. His twee transmitted Kerrik’s amusement in his next statement. Marguerite has shaken Poppet out of a dangerous complacency about her assumed superiority to the rest of the world. Hopefully it means she’ll get off of her pretty ass and start improving her family’s chances of survival. There was a pause. Were you truly concerned that Poppet might prove to be an undue influence on you?
That depends on who is defining undue, Iain replied wryly. Her first thought certainly wouldn’t be for the health of my clan over her family and she’s a manipulative little thing.
How is your mission for Corellon going?
As you are undoubtedly aware, Corellon is can be male or female depending on his whim. I think he’s been channeling his feminine side because I have been handed what looks a lot like a honey-do list.
Iain laughed out loud. Men give those to women and other men too, he pointed out.
It doesn’t matter. I am not his bitch either way. Fortunately, he apparently has no idea of how powerful I have become since we last interacted. At that time, this list would have been challenging and three of the items might have been fatal. As it is, they’re time consuming and annoyingly repetitive but not all that dangerous. The list will take a couple of months to complete, but I will be available when the time comes to move everyone to Earth. How is the packing going?
It isn’t. We got the wagon today and some empty boxes and such, but the majority of containers won’t be completed for at least two weeks. When we get done talking, I am going to send one of my undead harem to fetch me a crate of empty Dikon and we’ll use those instead. If we have to look like we’re moving a load of stuff, although I doubt anyone will care enough to spy on the move, we’ll pack boxes with stone or sand so the wagon looks weighed down enough.
How are you doing?
I’m going to ignore another of your edicts and go visit some of my family. I am too used to having sex multiple times a day and I don’t want that frustration if I go without causing me to misinterpret something Ava or Kasserine does or says. It’ll also let me brief Ninhursag on what to expect since none of us knew you were taking me to meet them.
Understood and agreed. It was a knee jerk reaction on my part. I apologize for it.
Apology unnecessary and yet accepted. Iain rolled to his feet. Kasserine received formal notice of her eviction and the High Council is reimbursing at least part of her outlay for the purchase of the house. She was not unduly upset at the terms and we have a moon from the upcoming full moon to get out. With the Dikon it’ll go fast and if there’s a problem I can cheat and bring some family here to help.
Do what you must.
I will. I have things to do, so is there anything else you wanted to inquire about?
When his twee imitated Kerrik’s chuckle, it was perfect enough that Iain half expected to see his teacher. No, I need to get back to disarming this stupid trap before it goes off. I will contact you tomorrow evening as I have today. Then he was gone.
Iain loosened his pistol in its holster and ran a hand over the rest of the gear on his belt, glanced at his pack where it rested on the bed and stepped into the nearest shadow. The exit was dark, and rain hissed down in a gentle downpour that quenched the still smoldering ashes of the house that had burned to the ground. It was in a clearing on a rise overlooking a plain of grass the stretched away into the distance. With his vision, Iain could see a line of riders on horseback, who were chivying more horses in front of them as they rode away from the scene. He gave a mental shrug and stepped again.
His exit was on the empty Earth he’d found during his travels. He stood on a beach on Corca Dhuibhne, or Dingle Bay for English speakers. It was a beautiful beach and Ireland had no large predators other than Grey Wolves and the smaller Eurasian Lynxes. They’d cleared an area just a short way from the beach and put a small cabin there that had a three meter high fence all around it since the wolves were wary of humans because they were new, but not particularly afraid of them since they hadn’t been hunted for generations. Because Ninhursag and some of her Elves had been part of the group that had come here to prepare the place, a large field of mixed crops was waiting to be harvested. It too had been fenced to keep the Irish elk and other destructive herbivores out of it. So had the small orchard of fruit trees native to the region.
The beach had also been chosen because it was not one of the many beaches that was a nesting ground for great auks, who were slow, messy and loud. Most of the nesting sites were on islands to the north of mainland Ireland but there were a few small rookeries on the northern beaches of Eire.
Iain used his twee to access the house’s computer and checked the house’s power cells before he took the building from standby mode to inhabited. He pulled up his sleeve. “Eirian, I need you.”
Silver smoke poured from his arm and formed into the Dragoness. “My lord,” she said with a savage grin. “I had thought you favored Aurum these days.”
Pokegirls, Iain thought to himself without letting any sign of his irritation show on his face or in his voice. “Aurum is less fearsome than you are, which is helpful in this situation with Kasserine and Ava. More importantly, the elves of that world believe that gold dragons can be completely trusted in a lot of ways that silvers or the other metallics cannot. That means Aurum gives me an inherent authority that you would not, even as the leader of my undead harem.”
Eirian nodded. “Yes, my lord.”
Iain gave a mental sigh. “Eirian, always remember that I made you first and I made you silver because I like silver dragons better than gold.”
She blinked and laughed suddenly. “My jealousy is that obvious, my lord? Do not answer, what you have said is answer enough. Please accept my apology for my behavior.”
“There is nothing to apologize for,” Iain said. “I am not going to let you ever leave me, Eirian.”
“Thank you, my lord. How may I serve you?”
“Put out a perimeter. Also, I want you to take a message to Ninhursag and wait for her answer.”
“Yes, my lord.” She cocked her head. “Skye, Beryl, Rhea, Dabria.” Iain watched them leave his body and appear. Dabria was the Dark Queen masquerading as a Succubus who had been one of Geraldine’s harem and been executed by Iain. The busty redhead was in her true form now, which made her a little taller, a little slenderer, her skin a dark bronze and her eyes bright red. She was wearing skintight black jeans and a black silk blouse. It was obvious that she didn’t have a bra on under it. “Beryl, these are yours to patrol with.”
“Come.” The red Dragoness nodded and vaulted into the air, followed quickly by the others.
Iain produced a data chip, which he offered to Eirian. “Here you go.”
She took it. “Thank you, my lord.” She stepped into the shadow of the cabin and vanished. Iain folded his arms behind his back and waited. A minute later she reappeared. “My lord.” She offered him a pokeball.
“Thank you very much,” he said as he took it. “Get back where you belong.”
“Yes, my lord.” She turned into smoke and flowed back onto his arm.
Iain eyed the pokeball and then activated it to release Ninhursag. “You travelled by pokeball?”
She nodded. “Dominique warned me how traumatic traveling with your undead is when you’re not with us.” She held up a picnic basket. “I brought lunch.”
“I just finished dinner but I will happily tuck in again,” he said as he took her hand and led her towards a sunny spot. “I have a perimeter out.”
“Eirian told me you did or I wouldn’t have been alone.”
While they ate he filled her in on the events since he’d left for training at Kerrik’s, following it up with a download of everything he could give her in case he’d missed something important. Ninhursag frowned. “Did you expect Kerrik to move so quickly?”
“No, I didn’t, but I’m not going to fight it. Either or both women would be perfect for what we want.”
She nodded. “It’ll be both.”
Iain looked surprised. “Do you really think so?”
“Yes. You won’t manipulate them. I most certainly will, and I’ll get the others to help. Kasserine isn’t going to leave her daughter and if she’s as much like Sofia as she obviously is, she needs you. If we don’t bring her into the family as a wife, she’ll be a spy for Kerrik because she is never going to leave Ava’s side. And you can’t marry Kasserine and not Ava. Talking about marriage and children to them like you did and then excluding her like that would certainly make Ava into your enemy and Kasserine still wouldn’t let her leave.”
“Your logic is sound, my love. Both summations are quite accurate.”
Her silver eyes sparkled happily at the praise. “I’ll get with Theodora and put together a house for them until they marry you. Don’t come back until its ready, but we both know that’s just a matter of timing for you.”
“Yes, it is and it’s still important. I can’t afford to be away from Miriam and Haley for long for the next few years.”
Ninhursag looked thoughtfully at him. ‘But that is according to their timeline, right, and not yours?” She grinned when he looked surprised again. “I am your maharani and I’ve been spending time with Theodora and Daya learning to wrap my head around all of your shenanigans. It’s so I can help with things like this.”
Iain chuckled. “You have no idea how much I appreciate you.”
“I have some idea but trust me, this is entirely selfish.”
Iain blinked. “Huh?”
“You’ve already fired two maharanis for not doing their jobs, so I know my position is only secure as long as I keep doing mine. And I am certainly not going to be like Autumn and be demoted to being queen of only my elves while someone else is queen of the clan. I am queen of the Grey Clan and I will be that for as long as I can.”
Iain chuckled. “Ambitious bitch of a pokegirl, huh?”
She grinned again. “Always.” Her grin vanished as she shifted to sit on her knees next to him and reached up to pull loose the black silk cord binding her hair and toss it to the side before she began unlacing his tunic as her hair spilled free. “Now, this ambitious bitch of a pokegirl was smart enough to ask Eirian how long it had been since you’ve been laid, and she’s decided to take it upon herself to relieve the stress she’s certain you’re under.”
Iain turned to make her work easier. “This is entirely selfish too, isn’t it?”
Ninhursag nodded sagely, her fingers working industriously and her face completely serious even as her eyes twinkled devilishly. “Absolutely. The fact that I love you more than anything except possibly our babies under my heart has nothing to do with it.”
“Well,” Iain said thoughtfully, “why don’t you do your best and reassure me that I’ve made the right choice in keeping you maharani for another day.”
Ninhursag leaned forward and kissed him hungrily as she tangled her fingers in the laces and pulled them apart with a sharp tug of her enhanced strength. “I will,” she said against his lips as she pushed him backward into the grass.
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