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Kasserine frowned and reached forward to finger the black cord lacing up his tunic. “This was rawhide yesterday. What happened?” She ran her fingers over it. “Is this silk?”
Iain nodded. “It is. The rawhide one broke and this was a convenient replacement.”
She fingered the cord again and released it. “I haven’t been able to afford silk in a very long time. I couldn’t even afford that cord.”
Iain tugged it loose and pulled it from his tunic to drape in her hands. “For you. It’s just a token of my appreciation, but please understand I mean this gift. I’ve got some more leather laces in my kit somewhere.”
She stared at it for several seconds, her green eyes opaque, before looking up at him. “You aren’t going to give up, are you?”
“Greedy drake, remember? And never.”
She carefully coiled the cord up in her palm. “You know I couldn’t have afforded the wagon or the boxes or anything else without the money you claim you’re paying for lessons and food that you gave me.” Her head came up and she stared into his eyes with a frightening intensity. “You could have bought a brothel full of whores with what you gave me. If it’s my body you want, it’s yours already. I will be your whore. But it’ll be only me. I will not allow anyone to do this to Ava too.”
Iain was very glad Ava was outside with her tutor and far out of earshot. “You are a strong, beautiful, intelligent and vibrant woman who is ruthless enough to do whatever she has had to do to take care of her family. I appreciate that because I am that way too. I whored myself out once to help my family, in a small village with no men in it because it was their custom and we had to let them think we were from their region. It got me assaulted and I almost died.” Kasserine was watching him, her body still and her face completely blank. The only movement she made was the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. The intensity of her focus on him was like a laser. “I invited you and Ava to move to my clan’s land and you accepted. I am a guest in your house, which gives certain obligations to both of us, but I am also your host within the clan and you are my guest from the moment I asked you to move to my land and you agreed.”
Her eyebrows had risen. “I am?”
“You and Ava both are. I have liked you from what I knew about you from my notes, and I have only liked you more since meeting you.” He smiled again but this smile was grim. “I know what you did to survive. I know what you have been doing to survive and you will never have to sell yourself again. Understand this, Kasserine, princess of Evermeet. If I have something and you need it, it is yours. If I have something and you want it, ask and it’ll also probably be yours. Have you spent the money I gave you?”
She nodded. “There were many bills that needed to be paid. I still haven’t finished paying for your weapons and armor.”
Iain reached into his pouch and pulled out three of the parchment wrapped rolls of silver. “Please take this and tell me when you need more.” She took it and tucked into her purse as he dug into his pouch again, this time coming up with a dozen bright gold coins. He carefully stacked them onto the table next to where Kasserine sat. “After Ava’s lesson is over for the day, I want you to give the tutor this and tell him to never return. If he even says one word to you other than gracefully accepting the money, I want you to call me and I’ll deal with him. If he suggests other forms of payment, I am probably going to geld him.”
The color was draining out of her face. “You know?”
Iain nodded. “I do.”
“That isn’t important.”
She grabbed his hands. “It is vitally important. Can Ava know too?”
“She does not or she’d have thrown him out long ago. She certainly can’t know it the way I do.”
Her hands tightened on his “Please, Iain, tell me. I must know.”
Iain nodded. “If you need and I have, it’s yours. That includes knowledge. After her last lesson, you went for a walk. When you came back, you smelled like him and sex.”
Kasserine suddenly looked ill. “I did,” she almost whispered.
“I’m sure you cleaned up as best you could, but I’m a dragon, remember? Ava couldn’t have smelled it on you, not with the nose she has right now.” He gripped her hands firmly when she looked fearfully at him. “You did what you had to in order to provide for your daughter. She needs a better education than she’s getting from that individual, but he was the best you could afford with the coin you had to offer. I will not ever hold that against you and I promise you that I will never mention it again. But it stops today. You will never have to sell yourself to anyone ever again.”
She shook her head. “That’s only true as long as we’re with you.”
Iain let go of her hands and took her by the shoulders. “I do not make promises,” he said quietly. “I do not because I will move heaven and earth to make sure they get kept when I do. But I am going to make you a promise right now. You will never have to give yourself to anyone ever again if you do not want to. I don’t care if you stay with us or not or join the clan or not. If I have to I will follow you around through the centuries until the day you die to make sure you always have enough of whatever you need so that you never have to be a whore again.” He let her go and smiled lightly. “Granted, it would be a lot easier to keep that promise if you stayed with us and even easier if you marry me, but it is given and, until you release me from it, it is how things will be.”
She looked into his eyes. “You mean that.”
She glanced out the window where they could see Ava sitting with her Sun elf tutor. “Lyssand isn’t going to take his dismissal well or want the money. He knows my family’s history and my clan is still powerful even if I am no longer part of it. He hopes I will get pregnant again, this time by him.”
“Kasserine,” Iain spoke quietly, “he has three options.” She frowned at him as he continued. “He can take the money and leave. He can refuse the money and leave without it.”
“What is the third option?”
“With the understanding that I will never consume any part of him,” Iain said, “If he refuses the money or to leave without it, unless you expressly forbid it, I will kill him. It will be untraceable, almost instantaneous and his body will never be found. He will be seen leaving this place and going on his way, only to disappear somewhere along the route, but he will die here.”
“What do you mean, if I expressly forbid it?”
“I will be meddling in your life. I want you to still have a decision in how your life runs, so I won’t just kill that elf. It’s like the fact that you want me to avoid killing people in Evermeet when we leave. It doesn’t bother me if they live or die, but it bothers you and therefore I will try to grant your request, within the conditions I’ve already told you. If you don’t want me to kill him even while he’s demanding to continue having sex with you, I won’t interfere. The right to make your own decisions, as long as you are an adult and competent, is something that I will try to never infringe on.”
She stood. “Please give me the gold.” Iain scooped it up and handed it to her. She put it in her purse with the silver and met his gaze. “I do not expressly forbid you from killing him. But we won’t do this here. I want to do this where I am supposed to meet him. I want to keep Ava from being involved in any of this.”
“Very well.” He smiled when she looked surprised. “Ava is your daughter and not an adult. You get to make those decisions for her until she becomes an adult.”
“Will you answer a question?”
Iain chuckled. “You are free to ask any question. I am free to refuse to answer it. However, since I want you to marry me, I will consider carefully before refusing to answer any of your questions. Ask your question. “
“Do you want to kill him?”
Iain looked out the window at the tutor and Ava. “I fight the urge to kill because I know that every person I kill without a very good reason just makes it easier to kill the next one. And there are a lot of people that the world would be better off without, or at least not a lot worse. Having said that, I very much want to kill him.”
“Why? We have just met.”
“I have known you for years, Kasserine. I just haven’t ever met you before now. That man is forcing you to do something you don’t want to do in order to provide for your daughter. And he’s cheating you.”
“You’re a princess. Once with you should have paid for Ava’s entire education.” Her eyes went wide. “How many other princesses is he likely to ever have the opportunity to buy sex from? He would be stupid to want to give that up.” Iain’s eyes hardened. “But he will be even dumber to try and insist on keeping the current arrangement. He is your employee and you have the right to sack him for any reason and at any time.”
“Sorry, it’s slang from where I come from and it means to dismiss him from your service.”
“Oh.” She smiled slightly. “I rather like the idea of shoving him into a sack.”
“I could do that. He’d get to ride with about three hundred pounds of rock, but not for long.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The rock would make sure he sinks to the bottom of the ocean.”
Kasserine nodded. “I hope it will not come to that.
Iain gave her a cheerful smile. “I hope it does.” She looked surprised and he smiled. “He’s forcing the woman I’m going to marry into doing something with him she loathes. I still want to kill him.”
She chuckled, and Iain was pleased that it sounded natural. “You really are a very greedy drake.” Her smile faded. “After Lyssand finishes the lesson and leaves I will take my walk and you will go with me.”
“I’ll be glad to.”
She eyed him for a moment. “You are not going to stop courting Ava, are you?”
Iain shook his head. “No.”
“You should not. She is still a better choice than I am.”
Iain just chuckled. “We’ve already had this discussion. I believe that she is as good a choice as you are. You are just as good as she is and better in some ways and there’s very little you can do to influence my opinion.”
“Then there is something I can do to influence it, isn’t there?”
“There is. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is and you should probably keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to lower my opinion of you. It might just raise it.” She scowled at him and he smiled cheerfully. “I’m going to put together a snack for Ava as she’s usually hungry after her lessons. Once she’s settled down with that we can take our little walk.”
The assignation place was a seedy looking inn with a set of stairs going up the back that bypassed the interior completely. Kasserine trudged up the stairs with Iain. She glanced at him as they headed up the second flight of stairs. “You are left handed, aren’t you?”
“Is that a problem?”
“It’s extremely rare. Corellon doesn’t like left handedness and so children are forced to use their right hands until it becomes natural to them. I had to fight my sister for years about letting Kerrik be left handed. Later it became another way she branded him as unnatural.”
“I’m glad my parents didn’t see a problem with it.”
“I’m asking because I think that the thing on your left hip is a weapon, which would make sense if you were left handed. Is it?”
Iain didn’t look at it but he was suddenly acutely aware of the weight of the pistol on his belt. “It is. It is something like a sling.”
“Is that what you’d use to kill the tutor?”
“No, that makes a huge mess and the pellet it throws would go through several buildings before stopping, endangering anyone downrange of me when I fire it. If it becomes an issue, I’ll use magic to kill him without leaving a mark.”
“Will you let me talk to him first?”
Iain nodded. “We will do this however you want to do this until he decides to become a problem. If, at any time, you want me to get immediately involved, tell me and I will.”
“You’ll stay uninvolved until then?”
“Is that what you want?”
Kasserine glanced at him. “It is. I would like it if you didn’t speak until I want you to.”
“I will attempt to do as you ask unless it is imperative that I tell you something. Do you want me to stay outside the room while you go in?”
She shook her head. “No.” She stopped in front of a door and knocked. “It’s me.” Without waiting for an answer she opened the door and stepped inside, Iain right behind her.
Lyssand apparently wasn’t a fan of foreplay because was already naked and sitting on the bed. He was also not athletic and that showed too in his paunch and general physique. His eyes went wide as Iain placed himself with his back against the wall next to the door and pushed it shut. “What is the meaning of this?” He pulled the coverlet over his waist and glared at Kasserine. “Explain.”
“He is here as a witness.”
“What?” The tutor’s voice rose. “I don’t want to be watched.”
Kasserine tossed a small pouch on the bed next to him. “This is for you. It is your final payment for tutoring Ava. I don’t want you to ever come back to my home. I don’t want to ever see you again and I don’t want you near my daughter.”
The tutor grabbed the pouch and loosened the drawstring so he could peer inside. “It’s not enough,” Lyssand announced. “We have an agreement.” His eyes shot to Iain when Iain stirred for a second. “You be still!” He looked back at Kasserine. “We do!”
“I am ending that agreement,” Kasserine said.
“You can’t. I am going to marry Ava when she comes of age,” he said as he stared fixedly at Kasserine. “You agreed to this.”
Kasserine frowned, closed her eyes and shook her head once before opening them. “No,” she said slowly, “I would never agree to that.”
The tutor still had his eyes locked on hers and was staring into them intently. “You agreed to this,” he said firmly.
“I,” Kasserine started to speak and stopped. “I,” she repeated drunkenly. “Did I?”
She felt a pressure on her back and her head suddenly cleared. She spun to see Iain pulling his finger back. He smiled grimly. “It has to be a magic item. Either that or he’s the stupidest fucking wizard ever since he had to know the spell wasn’t doing anything to me.” His eyes narrowed. “The spell is in his voice, so he might have thought it was influencing me as well.”
“His voice?” Kasserine’s voice was an angry hiss. “He’s been alone with my daughter for months. Talking to her.”
Iain lunged past her. “No!” Kasserine whirled to see Iain with his back to the window and facing the tutor, who had grabbed his clothes and tried to escape out the now blocked window.
“Let me leave,” the tutor ordered in a firm voice. He reached out to shove Iain to the side.
Iain smiled a shark’s grin. “No. If you touch me, Lyssand, I will break every bone in whatever appendage you use even if I have to use a mace to make sure I get them all. If I include the shoulder, that’s sixty-four bones if you use a hand.” He looked past the tutor at Kasserine as the elf male hastily jerked his hand back. “Whatever influence he has on your daughter and possibly you should be fairly easy to remove. I just need to know exactly what he did to the two of you.”
“I won’t tell you,” the tutor sneered. He turned to Kasserine. “Tell him to let me leave.”
Iain ignored him and continued speaking to Kasserine. “If he proves unwilling to be forthcoming about the technique he used, I can copy his memories of what he did without his permission. Or I can kill him and get his shade to explain what he did.”
“If you can copy his memories and are willing to, that’s what you may have to do,” Kasserine said.
Iain’s fist took the unaware elf male in the side of the throat and he went down instantly, his body spasming as his brain tried to regain control over his body. “I wouldn’t do this for anyone else,” Iain said as he knelt by the tutor. He touched the man in the forehead and pulled a dark blue glowing orb from it. “He’s slime and I’m sure his memories are just as slimy as the rest of him but you and Ava need this.” He shoved the globe into his forehead, winced and sighed. “Yup. Slime.” He looked up at Kasserine. “He has a magical tattoo on his tongue that lets him use a much stronger version of suggestion on people. If I remove his tongue he couldn’t do it to anyone else.”
“How bad is the situation with Ava?”
“He’s been reinforcing his control of her every time he visits, but it should be easy enough to undo. He’s been trying the same thing with you, but he’s having a harder time with you than with her.”
“I really hope I am not pregnant.”
Iain rose to his feet. “You’re not.”
“You can tell?”
“Pregnant women develop a distinct scent almost as soon as they become pregnant.” Iain nudged the tutor with his foot. “Can I kill him?”
“No. He’s not worth it.” She grabbed the pouch of gold back up. “But he doesn’t get this.”
“You’re in charge.” Iain opened the door and waved her out ahead of him.
Once they were on the ground floor, Kasserine grabbed his arm and jerked him to a stop. “Thank you for helping me.”
“I’m glad to help.” He pulled her back into motion.
They were quiet for several minutes. “What do I tell Ava,” she asked suddenly.
“You didn’t like what he was teaching her so you sacked him.”
Kasserine made a noise that sounded like a mix of a choked off laugh and a sob. “That is true enough.”
“He hadn’t touched her yet,” Iain said. “He wanted to but you almost never gave him the time to try and Ava knew you didn’t want her having sex while she was still a minor so she resisted him on the few occasions when he felt he had the opportunity and tried to press the issue.” He glanced at her. “May I offer a suggestion?”
She nodded. “What is it?”
“Let’s get a bottle of some good wine on the way home. I’ll draw you a bath of water so hot you’ll have to let it cool down before getting in. You can have a large glass of the wine and then go soak before you scrub all of the other days that were like today away as much as you can.”
“I think I’d scrub until I was bleeding.”
“If that happens I can heal it without having to see the injury. In the meantime, I’ll keep Ava company and she can teach me to play some game she can crush me at. She can have a glass of wine and I’ll drink the rest so it doesn’t cause problems. Since I can’t get drunk it’s just flavored water for me.”
“I’d like that.”
“Then lead the way to a wine shop.”
Kasserine watched as Iain smiled at Ava. “Close your eyes and picture a beautiful sunrise.” The elf woman obediently closed her eyes. “Tell me when you see that sunrise.”
A minute passed. “I see it,” Ava said with her brow furrowed in concentration.
Iain placed his fingers on her temples. “Hold that image,” he muttered as he closed his eyes. A few seconds later his eyes opened again. “I’m finished.”
Ava’s face turned towards the sound of his voice. “Can I open my eyes?”
“Yes, you can.”
She opened her eyes and looked at him curiously. “What was that for?”
Iain glanced at Kasserine and she nodded her approval for him to explain. “Your tutor was using magic to influence you,” Iain said. “That’s one of the reasons why your mother dismissed him. I’ve removed the influence that remained.”
Her eyes went wide. “He was? What was he doing?”
“Do you remember when he was telling you that you really liked him and that you were falling in love with him? He would tell you to forget what he was telling you except when he was around.”
She frowned. “I remember him doing that. Why would I want to love him? He was mean and old.” She made a face. “He wanted me to touch him too. I promised Mother I would wait until I was an adult before I did anything like that. I remember telling him that and it made him mad.”
Iain nodded. “Yeah, he was a creep.”
Ava frowned again. “How was he a creep?”
“Sorry, where I come from it is slang for someone who is scary or repulsive.”
“He was certainly repulsive.”
“Yes, he was. Because of what he did, today I’m going to make you and Kasserine your truewizard books so you can start your studies. After that I’m going to teach you some mental exercises that will make it a lot harder for someone to use that kind of mental influence on either of you again. I know your mother has been teaching you formal magic and some of the focusing exercises you use for that are a lot like what you’ll be learning from me.”
“I liked those. They’re fun,” Ava said eagerly.
Iain hadn’t found them fun, but perhaps Kasserine taught them differently. “One thing to remember is that if your old tutor comes around, you need to let me and your mother know immediately. Lyssand is banned from this place.” He produced a tube of inactive twee from his pouch and shook out two twee pills. “And I want to offer you and your mother each one of these.
“What is it?”
“I told you that I would offer you something that would extend your life without using magic and give you an internal aide as well as make your memory perfect. This item is it. It’s called a twee and each of these tablets is the seed of a twee. If you swallow it, it’ll grow inside you and wake up in a few days and then you can talk to me and to each other no matter where we are, unless we don’t want to talk to you.”
Ava took one of the tablets and held it close to her face as she squinted at it. “Do you have one?”
“I do. Everyone in my inner clan except Theodora and Daya have them. Even the children have them.”
Kasserine plucked the other twee from his palm to examine. “Why don’t this Theodora and Daya have one?”
“A twee is only for organics to have. They are not organic. They are more like a self-aware magic item or a baelnorn. They already have the ability to do everything a twee can do for us and so they don’t need one. In fact, twee were originally created to give people like us some of the gifts that people like Theodora and Daya already had.”
“Does it hurt,” Ava asked.
“I have never heard of anyone being hurt by that activation of a twee.”
Kasserine sniffed it. “Do I chew it up?”
“No, you swallow it whole, usually with liquid, just like if you were taking medicine.” Iain knew he could override a tablet and make the nanites that composed it unlock. “I can also dissolve it in a small amount of warm water with some honey and you could drink that, but sometimes it’s a little gritty.”
Ava put the tablet in her mouth and took a drink of tea. Then she opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue at him. “All gone.” She smiled at his confusion. “Mother makes me do that to ensure I actually take the medicines she gives me.”
“That’s because for a while you not really swallowing them and then you’d spit them out later when you didn’t think I was around,” Kasserine noted. She swallowed her pill.
“I was seven,” Ava protested. “That was over a century ago.”
Kasserine gave her a fond smile. “Sometimes it seems like only yesterday.”
Ava grimaced. “And sometimes it feels like I’ve been here forever.” She grinned. “I’m teasing, Iain. I love Mother very much. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t want her to be your wife too.”
Iain chuckled as he summoned his truewizard tome. “Good. While Ygerna’s mother lives with us, I’m not married to her.”
Ava smirked at him. “What, the greedy drake didn’t want her too?”
“Ygerna wants to be the only Sidhe I’m married to. I love her, so I am willing to try and give her that want. Kasumi wants to be my only kami wife. Some people are that way.”
“Does Kasumi have a relative in the clan too?”
“Yuko is her ancestor and, yes, she’s clan.”
Kasserine watched the book in his hand change. “Could the greedy drake take either of these women as his lover as it would not violate his agreement with his wives?”
“That would only technically not violate it and neither of my wives would be happy with the situation. Each would see it as breaking my word to them, and so would I. Still, I probably could make it work out in the long run, but it would cause so much trouble for everyone involved that I would not do that to them. Gormlaith and Yuko deserve better than that, and so do Kasumi and Ygerna.” He flashed his teeth in a quick grin. “And both Kasumi and Ygerna have very long memories for that sort of thing.” His grin vanished. “I love Ygerna and Kasumi. Both of them have been betrayed by people they were close to. Putting them through that kind of personal hell just because I wanted another woman or two in my bed would border on the sadistic and I’m not that way towards my ladies unless that happens to be something that they like. They don’t.”
Ava looked appalled. “Does anyone really like that?”
“Some people like being hurt,” Kasserine said. “Some like hurting others.” She eyed him. “You don’t seem like either type.”
Iain smiled. “A little light spanking or some light bondage can be fun, with the right woman. But no, I’m not into whipping someone until they’re bloody and I certainly don’t like it being done to me.”
Kasserine leaned forward. “Your eyes.” She sighed. “You’ve been there.”
Ava looked confused. “Mother? Where has Iain been?”
“Your mother means I’ve been tortured,” Iain said quietly. “I survived it and life goes on.”
Ava grabbed his wrist. “That’s terrible. Are you all right?”
Iain patted her hand. “Ava, I can’t explain what it was like in a way that you could understand. Only someone who has been tortured and survived it could understand something of what a torture victim goes through and so I hope you are never able to understand what happened to me. I survived it and I moved on. It’s all anyone can do. Am I all right?” He smiled reassuringly at her. “I am, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
She nodded and pulled his hand back with her to rest in her lap. “I can’t say I understand because I don’t. Mother explained that to me once about how silly it is to say someone understands something they’ve never experienced. All I can say is that I like the person you are now.”
“And that is a very nice thing to say indeed,” Iain patted her thigh. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve heard so far come from that particular discussion.” He winked at her. “But I need that hand back so I can create your book.”
She let it go. “Can I have your hand again when you’re done?”
“You’ll be looking through your book and you just might forget about me for a while.”
“That might be true,” she said cheerfully, “but I will eventually remember you and I’ll want your hand then.”
He just shook his head. “We’ll see. Now I need to focus so you can talk to your mother or you can be quiet, but I won’t be able to talk to anyone for a little bit.”
Ava moved over to sit next to her mother. “Now we can talk quietly without disturbing you.”
“I appreciate that,” Iain said as he bent his will to creating another first book. A while later the new book floated in the air over the table. Iain looked up. “Ava, take the book.”
She and Kasserine had been watching him while talking quietly. Ava jumped when he said her name. “Me,” she asked in a squeak. “Mother should go first.”
Iain had seen this coming before he’d gotten started. Each woman would demur in favor of the other so he’d already decided on the order to keep them from arguing. “I made this for you,” he said curtly. “Take it. The next one is Kasserine’s.”
Since he’d decided to make the first book for Ava, Kasserine could detect no lie in his words and she slid her chair back as she gestured towards the book floating in midair. “It is yours, Ava. Treasure it as the gift it is.”
Ava rose. “Thank, you Iain.” She took the book out of the air and immediately its song surrounded them. Iain had forgotten how loud it was and winced as she sat down and cradled the book against her chest while the song died away. “What is that noise?”
“The book is making it,” Iain said. “To me it sounds like singing, but without words. Mine used it to call me to it. In the beginning only I could hear it, but when I touched it, everyone around could hear it like we could her yours and then, like yours did, the song stopped.”
“I wonder why it does that?” She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Now make Mother’s book.”
“Aren’t you going to open it,” Kasserine asked her quietly as Iain started on the second tome.
“I’ll wait until you have yours first. It’s only fair and we can open our new books together.”
Kasserine laughed softly. “I know not to argue with you about that, so let’s sit here and be quiet so Iain can make my book now.”
He focused on creating another book. The process had definite steps that went in a precise order and each took a certain amount of time, so he wasn’t able to speed the process along any. That meant that almost the same amount of time passed before another blank book floated above the table. Iain looked up. “Kasserine, take your book.”
Emotion that Iain couldn’t identify shone in her eyes and she never stopped looking at him as she plucked the book from where it hovered. Its song rang around them and died away as she settled down next to Ava, still watching him. Finally, she turned to her daughter. “Shall we open our books now?”
“Yes! I want to see if they’re the same.”
Iain leaned back in his chair and looked out through window at the other end of the dining room as the two women opened their tomes and went back and forth comparing wording. He already knew that the first book given a truewizard with this spell was identical to all the ones that had come before it.
It was evening, dinner was over and the dishes had been cleaned up and put away before Iain had consented to doing this. The bottle of wine he’d picked up sat unopened in the kitchen where Kasserine had forgotten it in her eagerness to remove the magical compulsions on her daughter and get her new book.
Iain smiled as he watched the two of them compare each of their new books. Because of the way that elves aged, Kasserine and Ava looked more like sisters than they did mother and daughter. But it was likely to cause less confusion than what he figured would start in about twenty years during family reunions when, for example, April and all of her parthenogenic daughters stood together for a family portrait. It was a good thing he could tell all of them apart from each other.
After watching them for a few more minutes, he got up and picked up the tea service to take to the kitchen so he could make a fresh pot of tea. He’d stay up and be available for questions or whatnot until they went to bed and then he’d head for the camp to meet another of the women of his family.
Both women’s heads came up sharply with almost identical expressions of surprise on their faces when Iain rapped loudly on the table top with his knuckles. He smiled slightly at them as he spoke in a firm voice. “You both need to put your books away and go freshen up for breakfast. After we’ve eaten I’ll show you how to store them on your bodies, if you’re interested.”
Kasserine gave him a puzzled look. “Breakfast?”
Iain pointed to the window where the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. “You’ve had your noses in those books all night.”
Ava frowned as she looked out the window. “I’m not tired.”
“You’ll find that it’s easy to lose time while studying. While doing so, it’s also easy to ignore your body’s needs. After we eat, you’ll probably find yourself getting tired. Later you’ll learn how to use your magic to ward off sleep or reverie, but in the long term it’s not very healthy unless you’re from a race that doesn’t sleep. Elves do, after a fashion. After becoming a dragon I’ve found I need a lot less sleep, but I still go to bed almost every night.”
“Why,” Ava asked curiously.
“The ladies in my life do sleep and they get unhappy if I don’t spend time with them. Sleeping together is a big part of that for some of them.”
“Did you go to bed last night?”
Iain smiled. “No, I’ve been here keeping an eye on you two and making sure you had fresh tea. I know you’ll be hungry once you see food and since breakfast is ready it’s time for a break. Then we still have packing to do but I’ll teach you how to store your book before we get started on that.”
Ava blushed slightly when her stomach growled loudly. “Who made breakfast?”
Iain gave her a deadpan look. “I hired a troupe of itinerant cooks to make breakfast for us.”
Her eyes went wide. “You did?” She blinked when Kasserine snickered and blushed again. “Oh. I didn’t know you could cook.”
Iain chuckled. “I lived alone for several years. It was either learn to cook or decide that bread and cheese was my favorite food.”
“What did you cook,” Ava asked curiously.
“You’ll find out when you return from washing up.”
Kasserine laughed. “Now you sound like a parent.”
“You need to wash up too. Now neither of you wants me to start using the psychological tricks I could use to get you moving, so go wash.”
Kasserine took Ava’s hand as she stood. “Let us go. I am hungry. If you have more questions about Iain’s cooking they can wait until I get to eat.”
Iain had made savory crepes and filled them with sautéed vegetables for breakfast. They turned out to be popular. Ava had never eaten them before but liked them a lot. As for her mother, unsurprisingly there was an elven recipe that involved very thin pancakes filled with things, and therefore Kasserine had eaten them when she was at court. She hadn’t had them since being banished from her clan because she couldn’t afford a cook and she hadn’t learned to cook more than the most very basic of meals before her banishment had taken place.
After breakfast had been cleaned up, Iain sat down with them and taught them how to store their books as tattoos on their bodies. It was surprisingly easy to teach them, and the women were practicing calling and putting away their books when the bell at the door rang nine times, in a slow, measured pace and then went silent.
Kasserine put her book on her arm and looked at Iain as she made a motion with her free hand and the bell rang once. “Is it Kerrik?”
Iain shook his head. “It’s twelve elves, all Sun elves. Three men and nine women.” His eyes narrowed. “One of them is Lyssand.”
Kasserine nodded. “I was concerned that he might be among them. Nine slow rings of the bell tells us that they’re here on clan business and it means we have a serious problem.”
Iain ran through the information Kerrik had given him on custom and came up blank. Apparently he hadn’t thought this, whatever it was, might come up and hadn’t included it in the information he’d given Iain. “What do you mean?”
“If they are here on clan business, they come here with the weight of their clan behind them. We are without a clan and have no such protection. That puts us at a significant disadvantage in dealing with them.”
Iain got up. “Do you understand that I didn’t somehow get them to come here today?”
Kasserine looked puzzledly at him. “Of course you didn’t.”
“Understanding that, I formally ask you if you will join my clan.”
Kasserine shot a worried look towards the front of the house as the bell slowly rang nine more times. “Iain, this is not a time for levity.”
“I am not joking,” Iain said firmly. “I am taking advantage of an unexpected situation and using it to weld you closer to me and mine. I ask you to join my clan so that you will no longer be without one.” He smiled then. “Greedy drake, remember?”
Kasserine shook her head. “I should be furious with you, but all I am is grateful. I accept your offer.” She frowned. “What is the name of your clan?”
“We are Grey Clan.” Iain turned to Ava. “Under clan law, as a minor, you became clan when your mother agreed to join it. However, considering that I want to marry you, I will ask you.”
Ava bounced to her feet. “I accept your proposal. Unless my mother forbids it, when I come of age we will marry.”
Iain eyed her. “You know I was going to ask you to join the clan, not ask you to marry me yet.”
“I do. But I could take what you were saying either way and so I acted before you could clarify things and take my opportunity away from me. Now we are betrothed because Mother hasn’t forbidden it.”
Iain looked at Kasserine. “She’s right. You haven’t.”
“And I will not. I have already told you that she is the best choice for you.”
Ava put her hand on his arm. “Iain, do you trust my opinion? If you do, be the greedy drake you say you are.”
Iain glanced at her and grinned. “Very well.” He turned to her mother. “Kasserine, will you marry me?”
“Say yes, Mother. Then you speak to these visitors as a princess again, since you will be betrothed to our clan’s leader.”
A fist pounded on the door and Kasserine’s eyes narrowed. “They are supposed to be patient as we are presumably readying ourselves to greet them formally.” She looked at Iain. “I accept your proposal. I will marry you after Ava does.”
“It’ll be soon after Ava marries me,” Iain said.
“Yes,” Kasserine replied She looked at Ava. “Get dressed.” Ava headed for her room as she held out a hand to Iain. “Let us greet our visitors.”
Iain let her lead him towards the front door. “Are we going to greet them formally?”
“We will. I will be polite until they are not,” she glanced at him and smiled. “I believe that is what my new clan would want, in any case.”
“It is. Since I don’t know what’s going on, I’ll defer to your judgment. You’re the expert in this situation and so you’re in charge.”
Kasserine gave a bitter laugh. “If only my sister or her daughters had been so wise as to delegate what they didn’t know our family would still be on the throne. Wait in the doorway to the hall like you did with the Council’s people.” Iain took up position in the doorway and leaned against the frame as she opened the door. “I am Kasserine Grey and, although I do not recognize what clan you are from, I invite you into my home that any business between our clans may be conducted.”
A Sun elf woman with long red hair tied back in a ponytail and bright green eyes scowled at her. “We are Swift Arrow. You are without clan, Kasserine of Evermeet. Do not presume to pretend that you are.”
“Although I have but joined the Grey Clan recently, I am still a member of it,” Kasserine replied. “Therefore, it is my responsibility to greet you on behalf of my clan.”
“She lies,” Lyssand announced.
“I don’t care what she says,” a male Sun elf wearing a suit of silvery looking chainmail over a brightly colored gambeson stated. He pointed at Iain. “We are here for him. Make way, woman.”
Kasserine glanced at Iain, who nodded. She stepped politely out of the way as the Sun elf swaggered forward and stopped in front of Iain. “You have insulted the honor of Swift Arrow by laying hands on my uncle. Only blood will cleanse the stain you have placed upon it. I challenge you to a battle to the death!”
Iain looked past his challenger at the woman who’d spoken to Kasserine. “Ashall, are you really determined to let Zarn pursue this?”
Ashall’s eyes went wide. “You know who I am?”
“Obviously.” She flushed at the scorn in Iain’s voice. “Lyssand is using magic to influence you and has been for years. His tongue has been tattooed to make him more persuasive and he’s been using it on you for a long time to get what he wants. He’s doing it again now.”
Zarn waved a fist in Iain’s face. “I am challenging you, coward! Ashall has nothing to do with this now that my challenge has been issued.”
Iain hadn’t moved from his original position leaning against the doorframe. He smiled slightly but it was a cold, cutting smile. “If your mother tells you to withdraw your challenge, you will do as she tells you to or she will disown you and you can’t have that. And I am not afraid of you. I am not one of the striplings or old warriors you have found a way to challenge and then slaughtered.” Without looking away from Zarn as the warrior purpled in rage, he raised his voice. “Ashall, will Swift Arrow’s honor be satisfied when I butcher your son or, in the name of honor, will you bring me more Swift Arrows to kill after he falls?”
“Blood will cleanse the stain from our honor,” Ashall said. “Whether it is Zarn’s blood or yours, this will end when the two of you meet.”
“Remember those words.” Iain looked at Zarn. “I am Iain the Grey and I accept your challenge. We will meet in two weeks a mile out on the plains in the customary clearing.”
Zarn laughed in Iain’s face. “I decide when we meet. I will kill you in two days.”
“If you are so eager to die, then so be it.”
“I have never heard of any clan named Grey,” Ashall said.
“It’s a big world, Ashall,” Iain replied. “You need to travel it more. There are a great many things out there that you know nothing about. Lyssand is not the expert he claims he is, either. He tells people to believe what he says and his magic makes them do his bidding.” He shifted his gaze to Kasserine. “Challenge has been given and accepted. Do they have any other business here?”
Kasserine looked at Ashall. “Do you have any further business with my clan this day?”
Ashall shook her head. “Come out of there, Zarn. We have our challenge.”
“If you weren’t pretending to be clan I’d drag you out into the street and kill you now,” Zarn hissed to Iain. “You still only managed to get two more days to live.”
“I bid you a good day, Zarn Swift Arrow,” Iain said.
Zarn spat in his face and stomped back outside. As soon as Kasserine shut the door, Iain wiped his face with his shirt. “I’d better not close with him when we fight. His breath is almost lethal. It smells like he eats pig shit.” He stepped out of the doorway so Ava could join them. She’d been waiting quietly behind him after having changed into her armor and weapons.
Kasserine turned and leaned against the door she’d just closed. “Swift Arrow is a small clan whose leadership is ambitious beyond their grasp. Their holdings are only here in the city and they are little more than two centuries old, having formed from parts of another clan when it dissolved. How do you know of them?”
“When I copied Lyssand’s memories, I copied all of them. I know everything he knew up to that instant.” Iain grimaced. “And with my twee letting me remember everything, I even know what he’s forgotten during his miserable life. He’s watched Zarn train and he’s watched Zarn kill other people he challenged. Lyssand watched him grow up and knows how he fights, how fast he is and what weapons and spells he regularly uses. Even if I weren’t going to cheat as much as I possibly can, he’d be nothing more than meat to any of my instructors and he’s nothing more than meat to me.”
“We can determine that, Mother,” Ava said. “I watched one of Zarn’s duels two years ago. I am better than he is. I can tell you if Iain is better than he is after watching him train and sparring with him.” She looked at Iain. “Don’t you dare die on me just after we became betrothed.”
“I will endeavor not to, Ava.”
Kasserine was watching Iain. “How can you cheat during an unlimited duel?”
“By cheating I mean I intend to gain as many advantages on my opponent as I can. First of all, I know his routine. If the battle starts at any distance, Zarn likes to open a fight with a hand crossbow he carries, and he always aims at the face to disrupt spellcasters. Then he usually follows with a lightning bolt from his enchanted sword. After that, if his opponent is still standing, Zarn relies on his enchanted sword, magic missile spells, some potions of healing and his mithril chainmail and shield to carry the day. The crossbow bolt wouldn’t kill me even if it hit and I can protect myself from almost any spell he can cast. I’d be concerned about some of the spells you might be able to cast, if you were my opponent, but you’re a much more experienced wizard than Zarn is.”
Kasserine shook her head. “Zarn’s spell repertoire is probably better than mine is. I was not allowed to take most of my spell books with me when I was banished and, of course, none of my higher power books were allowed to leave with me.”
“We will get that straightened out before Ava becomes an adult,” Iain said. “Both of you need a complete set of spell books,” he smiled, “especially since you’re teaching me magic.”
“How quickly can you defeat Zarn,” Kasserine asked.
“If I gave away the secret of the weapon you asked about, I could kill him before he fired his hand crossbow, if I can draw it fast enough and I can. If I don’t use my pistol, I can still kill him in only a few seconds with my bow. Why?”
“Swift Arrow is ambitious and has seven warriors almost as good as Zarn, so if you take too long to kill him, then Ashall may return another day to challenge you again or hire an assassin to strike for you.”
“So you want me to win this fight and all of the other fights at the same time?”
She nodded. “If you can, then yes, and you will certainly have to kill Zarn and as quickly as you can. But don’t give away all of your secrets if you can avoid doing so. I want Ava to test you and then we will train you in our methods of fighting as much as we can in the days we have. Lyssand may have watched Zarn fight, but he is not a warrior nor is he a mage and therefore we can give you an understanding of the tactics Zarn might use when you counter his first ones that Lyssand’s memories cannot.” Iain watched her face change as she braced herself. “You say you have all of Lyssand’s memories. Is this true?”
Iain nodded gravely. “I do and I still want to marry you.”
Ava looked from Iain to Kasserine. “Mother, what are you carefully trying not to discuss around me? If it’s about how you paid Lyssand to tutor me, I already know about it.”
The blood drained from Kasserine’s face. “How,” she whispered.
“Lyssand told me,” Ava said as she hugged her mother. “He then told me to forget that I knew, and I did until Iain removed the control magic. I remembered it last night. If I’d thought about it, I would have realized it immediately as we have no money with which to pay a tutor.” She kissed her mother on the cheek. “I am not upset with you, Mother, just Lyssand and Iain.”
Kasserine frowned. “Why Iain?”
“This would not be happening if, when Iain laid hands on Lyssand, he’d killed him.”
Kasserine hugged Ava back. “He wanted to. I wouldn’t let him. Perhaps it was a foolish decision, but it is made and cannot be undone.”
“She’s right,” Iain said. “But it can be corrected.”
Ava let her mother go to face Iain. “How?”
“A few days after the duel I think that Lyssand will have a fatal accident while we’re out in public somewhere.”
My lord, Eirian said to him, in his grief at leading his nephew to being killed for his sins, might this teacher not take his own life, leaving behind a written confession of his misdeeds?
Iain smiled. “That sounds even better.”
Kasserine eyed him. “No one spoke.”
“Sorry, one of my undead harem was suggesting that his death could be staged to look like he had killed himself out of remorse for letting his sins lead his nephew to being killed and that he’d leave a note behind explaining what he’d done and why.”
“You can do that?” Ava flushed slightly when her mother looked curiously at her. “I’m not suggesting we kill him, Mother. I was just curious.”
Kasserine smiled grimly. “I want him dead too, Ava, and you still cannot successfully lie to me.” She turned to Iain. “I doubt a suicide would be believed by the other members of his clan. The man has never shown remorse before.”
Iain shrugged. “With the understanding that I normally kill my own snakes, he could be mauled to death by wild animals.”
Kasserine shook her head. “As much as I despise the man, murdering him makes us no better than he is. We are not agents of the kingdom and it is not our right to exact justice on someone.”
Iain shrugged. “I am more than willing to settle for revenge, but I bow to your judgement since I want you and Ava to like me more than I want him dead.”
“Thank you, Iain,” Kasserine said.
“Don’t thank me,” Iain replied. “I would kill him, and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. He tried to enslave both of you and I take that rather poorly and that before you agreed to marry me. Now that we’re betrothed, he doesn’t get any more excuses. He tries that again with either of you and he will be dead just as soon as I get to him.”
“I can accept that,” Kasserine said.
Ava touched the hilt of her sword. “We can protect ourselves, Iain.”
“I don’t deny that, Ava. You’ll find that almost everyone in the family you’re joining can protect themselves too. But what you need to remember is that you are not alone anymore and you will never be alone again. In my family we protect ourselves, but we also protect each other. Cutting someone down in a battle is one thing. Killing someone in a formal duel is another thing and they are similar but not the same. But sticking a knife in someone’s kidney in a crowd or cutting their throat while they sleep is something entirely different. You have never done that and, hopefully, you’ll never need to learn how to do that. And part of the reason that you may never have to learn how to do that is because there are some people in your new family who have already done it and are willing to do it again so you don’t have to. You will never successfully challenge Lyssand. He’ll find a way to escape because he is a coward. And on a battlefield he will always run away. So if he is to die, he will have to be murdered.”
Ava swallowed hard. “You can do that?”
“I can. But I have people who are much better at that than I am and I usually let the best person for a job do it. I also have people to advise me so that I don’t do things that I shouldn’t as clan leader. Your mother has the right experience to be one of my advisors and I may ask her to be one of them for that reason. She is willing to temper justice with mercy while I have no mercy for our enemies because of what I am. She can see situations I have missed where mercy might turn a potential enemy into a friend and advise me as to such so we can avoid a pointless war.” He looked at Kasserine. “And I must seek your advice now.”
“I want to accept Ava’s offer and train with her until my duel as well as train with you if you’d help. But I don’t think that it would be wise to remain here while doing so. I feel it’s too close to the town and our enemies, who we already know have little honor and who know where we live.”
Kasserine nodded. “One of the things that Ava should have removed from your room is our tent.”
“Iain said it was acceptable to store it beneath his bed,” Ava said. “That’s where it is.”
“Get it. We’ll pack food and train in the forest to the north, returning the morning of the duel.” She looked at Iain. “We will be present for this duel.”
“I want you there. I don’t trust anyone else here to protect me from treachery.”
She looked pleased by his answer. “And we will. Should you inform your wives and women of this duel?”
“I should, but they’d all want to be there if I do and that could cause problems. As it is, some of them are going to be angry at me for being in a duel at all, even if I didn’t have any real option to avoid it. They don’t think I can protect myself.”
Kasserine nodded. “Unless they are Teu-tel-quessir, or can become our people like you can, their presence will not be tolerated. When we meet them, I will explain why they were not told before the duel. I would prefer not to tell them of your death. You assure us that Zarn has no chance of winning. Is this true or mere bragging?”
“I don’t think he has a chance, but I will let you decide at the end of our training and before the duel takes place. If you feel that I won’t win, I’ll change my tactics so I will.”
“It’s a day’s travel by foot to the forest,” Kasserine said. “If you use your equine form we can be there in hours.”
“I’m more than willing to.”
“Iain can become a horse?” Ava frowned. “I didn’t know this.”
“He used it earlier to move the wagon to where it is. You’ll see it before I use illusion to hide his true appearance.”
“Mother, we don’t have a saddle or bridle.”
Kasserine chuckled. “I don’t believe Iain has ever worn one and I don’t think I want to be the person to try to saddle him or fit him with a bit.”
“No, you don’t,” Iain said. “I’ll help Ava with the tent and clothes.”
Kasserine nodded. “I’ll get my clothes and pack our food. Ava, change into normal clothes but bring your weapons and armor.”
“If he doesn’t have a saddle, how will he carry the tent,” Ava asked.
“We’ll put everything into a Dikon,” Iain replied. “It’ll lighten your packs, too.”
“Good,” Kasserine said. “Now let us be about this.”
Iain shifted slightly and reached out with his twee. Kerrik, can we talk?
I am currently between waves of undead from the vampire I’m hunting so yes. What is it?
I have a duel this morning at the dueling ground near the city. I don’t intend to lose but nobody does. If I do, my twee will tell you so you can help your mother and sister.
The curiosity he felt from Kerrik was expected. Why are you in a duel?
I beat up an elf and he convinced some in his clan to take offense because of it.
Why are you not telling me the whole story?
Iain grimaced. If I do, then I won’t have anyone to kill. You’ll probably wipe out the entire clan and your mother will be upset.
Where are you?
In a forest north of Drelagara. We’re here so Kasserine and Ava can help me train and plan out of sight of our enemies.
I’ve located you. A second later there was a quiet tap on the side of the tent. Knock, knock.
Just a second. Iain carefully slid out of the bedroll, grabbed his pants and crawled out of the tent.
Kerrik motioned him away from the tent and the two silently moved into the trees. “Where is my mother and Ava?”
“In the tent.” Iain pulled his pants on.
“The tent isn’t that big. One bedroll?”
“Kasserine said it was customary since the nights are chilly.”
Kerrik chuckled. “It is. And elves don’t normally wear bedclothes.”
“Nope. I’m not supposed to either. And they put me in the middle, of course, so they could cuddle against me. They claimed I was warmer than they are.”
Iain shook his head. “Thanks, but I’ve already got some.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked as he grinned. “I’ll bet. So what is going on?”
“Your mother had no cash when we arrived but Ava had a tutor.”
Kerrik’s ears flattened for a heartbeat. “My mother is a practical woman. She was fucking him?”
“Yes, but only because she had to.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
Iain shrugged. “I understand doing what you have to in order to get what you have to. I don’t fault her for that, but I helped her to end it since she wasn’t happy about the situation. Lyssand is from the Swift Arrow clan. It’s small and ambitious. Kasserine thinks their ambition outstrips their ability. Lysssand knows who Kasserine is and was hoping for a child to claim. He was using magic to influence both women, keeping Kasserine in his bed and trying to get Ava as his wife.”
Kerrik’s ears went completely flat. “Did you kill him slowly?”
“He’s not dead. Your mother didn’t want me to kill him,” Iain watched Kerrik’s lips lift in a silent snarl. “She still doesn’t want him murdered.”
“She’ll get over not getting what she wants in that particular instance.” Kerrik gave Iain a flat look. “Finish the story.”
“I knocked Lyssand down and copied his memories so I knew how to remove his influence on them, which I did. He whined to his sister and her son challenged me to a duel. Later today I’ll kill the son.”
“What are your chances of succeeding?”
“Without using my pistol, he’ll die in the first minute. Lyssand watched him train as he grew up and has watched most of the duels Zarn has fought.”
“That’s a dark elf name.”
“They’ve got some dark elf ancestry. There aren’t any Drow yet so it’s not the stigma it will be.”
Kerrik leaned against a tree. “How are you getting along with them?”
“They’ve joined the clan and we’re betrothed.”
Kerrik’s ears turned to focus on Iain as he raised an eyebrow. “How did you manage that so quickly?”
“If we faced the Swift Arrows as clan we had more options than if Kasserine was without a clan so I asked her to join Grey. She agreed and, although she’s still a minor and therefore automatically joined when her mother did, to keep her happy I started to ask Ava too. Before I could finish asking her to join the clan, she deliberately took what I’d said so far as a proposal of marriage and accepted. Then she advised me to ask Kasserine to marry me too, so I did and she accepted.”
Kerrik’s ears canted confusedly. “Did you trick them, did they trick you or was anyone tricked?”
Iain shrugged. “I’ve reviewed the instant replay a couple of times and I’m still not sure. However, they’re clan and we’re engaged.”
“Knowing that, I have to ask why the Swift Arrows aren’t dead yet?”
“Kasserine doesn’t want me to commit murder. Ava somewhat agrees with her. Apparently if I kill Zarn in a duel where he has no chance it’s fine but if I snipe him at a kilometer like a smart person might it isn’t.”
“What about this tutor?”
“Kasserine still doesn’t want me to kill him. She can’t get justice and doesn’t want me to take revenge. She also doesn’t want me to kill any mages who show up when we’re leaving and try to stop us. They’re still her subjects.
Kerrik shook his head. “You’d think she’d have had that crap burned out of her head by now.”
“It isn’t crap to her. Considering her experience, I thought I’d ask her to join my general staff.”
“Why do you limit yourself like this,” Kerrik asked curiously. “I didn’t when I was clan leader.”
“I don’t want to be king and I love the women who are going to disagree with me, so I give them the opportunity to be unhappy with me before I kill people instead of after.” He smiled. “They get over it faster if the target isn’t dead yet.”
Kerrik just shook his head slowly. “I’ll be there for the duel. It’s an hour after sunup, right?”
“Yes, although I expect they’ll be late. Since I’m up I’ll start breakfast. Want to eat with us?” Iain sniffed the air. “After you bathe and don’t smell like ghoul.”
Kerrik frowned. “How do you know what they smell like?”
“The Swift Arrows have some as guards in their crypt. Lyssand likes to go down there to avoid having to do work. I know their command words too. If they had anything of value in the crypts I’d have already sent the Dragonesses to swipe it.”
“I think I’ll pass on the offer of breakfast since it’s going to take some time and a hot bath to scrub this stink from my skin.” He looked down at himself. “I was actually wading in their remains at several points.”
“This vampire really doesn’t like visitors.”
Kerrik smiled coldly. “She’s really not going to like me. I’m supposed to capture her, bind her securely and give her to the big C.”
“The big C?” Iain raised an eyebrow. “Is this like when your nickname for Tom Riddle was Booger, instead of You Know Who?”
Kerrik smirked. “Yes.” His smirk faded. “When are the weddings?”
“Ava’s won’t be until she becomes an adult and Kasserine wants to wait until after I’m married to Ava. I think Kasserine figures I’ll eventually wise up and be repulsed by her past. That poor woman’s self-esteem is already so low it’s dug itself a deep pit to hide out in.”
“Wait, you mentioned that Ava was a minor before. She’s not.”
“You miscounted. She’s got another year before she becomes an adult.”
“Then she cannot get betrothed.”
“She can if Kasserine lets her and she did.”
Kerrik sighed. “Whatever. Are you going to eat this elf like you did the goblin?”
“I only ate his head and, no. I suspect nobody would want to kiss me if I eat an elf, and I try not to eat sentient beings. It sets a bad precedent.”
“And they tend to taste bad and aren’t fatty enough,” Kerrik noted. “A nice deer or seal is much to be preferred.”
“I’ll take your word for it on the sentients and I’ll have to see for myself as far as the seal goes.”
Kerrik grinned. “Empirical sampling is the only way to be certain. I’ll see you at the duel.”
“Oh,” Iain said, “there’s one other thing.”
“Kasserine would like you to look into something for her.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “This should be interesting. What is it?”
“There was a baelnorn around when you were at court. It protected the royal family.”
Kerrik frowned and his eyes widened. “I haven’t thought about Selsharra in millennium. What about her?”
“According to Kasserine, she served your bloodline, not the clan. Kasserine was banished before the royal line died out and she doesn’t know what happened to the baelnorn. She was hoping you’d look into it.”
“Why should I care?”
“Apparently she’s your great-great grandmother.”
Kerrik blinked. “She never said anything about that.” He shrugged when Iain raised an eyebrow. “She was one of my instructors in formal magic for several decades.”
“I can’t ask for favors, but if she’s still around, recruiting her would stick a thumb in the eye of your aunt’s memory. I doubt she’d want the family baelnorn anywhere near her misbegotten sister or you.”
Kerrik laughed. “That was an awesome attempt at manipulating me and I’m going to let you succeed because you’re right. If I can find Selsharra and get her on our side, my dead aunt would be screaming in fury in her crypt.” He grinned. “And if she does rise up and come after me, I can burn the bitch to carbon. That’s something fond to think about. I’ll look into it when I get a chance but it probably won’t be until after I get done with these stupid missions.”
“I’m just grateful you’ll look into it.” Iain waved and waited until Kerrik had vanished before going back to camp to start cooking.
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
Dead Harem (22)
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 analog of Iain
Alabaster – Dragoness (white)
Onyx – Dragoness (black)
Lapis – Dragoness (blue)
Garnet – Dragoness (red)
Iolite – Dragoness (purple)
Malachite – Dragoness (green with white swirls)
Dabria – Dark Queen
Omisha – Demoness
Mother s & Children