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It looked like a tropical jungle Iain would expect to find on Earth but the bird analog shrieking at him in a panic had two pairs of membrane wings and was covered in magenta scales.
He took a step and mud squished under his feet. He was standing on the edge of a harbor that was lit by the light of one sun setting on the other side of the harbor while a smaller, bluer one was rising behind him from the hillside. In the distance a diesel blatted, drawing his attention to a dark orange multiton vehicle with balloon tires and a v-hull as it moved through the mud, spraying watery muck ahead and around it. The vehicle would obviously float, and the tires would double as waterwheels when needed. It was too far away for his perception and the cab was closed so he couldn’t tell who or what was driving it. “Great,” he muttered. “I just swept the library floor. I think it would be better to come out in the gardens where I can clean my boots.”
He took a step and found himself in an alley. From the smell, he wasn’t sure the it was cleaner than the harbor had been. In the street just outside the alley a brawl was going on between two groups of people. One group was composed of people dressed like, well, civilians while the second group was wearing uniforms. Iain didn’t see any knives or guns, but there was the occasional flash of a truncheon or bottle on both sides. A hat from one of the uniformed people came flying into the alley and smacked into a wall. On the cap was large gold letters which spelled out RCN, and underneath it in smaller gold the words Princess Cecille. For an instant, Iain thought about keeping it as a souvenir before smiling and taking another step as someone staggered into the alley from the fray.
Kasserine’s garden was quiet and contemplative in comparison to the scene he’d just left. Iain pulled off his boots and dropped them next to the steps onto the porch before padding into the house.
Ava was in the library and staring at a nearly empty hourglass as the sand trickled from the top to the bottom. “Is that accurate,” Iain asked from the doorway.
“Iain!” She jumped to her feet, threw herself at him and kissed him fiercely. Iain reacted automatically from years of conditioning by pokegirls and kissed her back. When his hands slid down her back and he squeezed her ass, she moaned into his mouth. It didn’t sound like any of his women, which brought him to his senses. He gradually broke the kiss and gently but firmly pushed her backwards until she was at arm’s length.
Ava stared into his eyes. Her cheeks were flushed and she was breathing hard. “I don’t want to stop,” she whispered.
“Neither do I,” Iain admitted, “but Kasserine would not approve and we both want her to approve of what we do, so we must. You promised her and I will help you keep that promise.”
Ava nodded slowly and then giggled. “Mother once caught me in a hayloft with a boy. She was very angry with me.”
“I hope she was angry with the boy too.”
Ava giggled again. “She chased him off with a stick.”
“I certainly don’t want her doing that to me,” Iain said with a smile. “Where is she?”
“She’s in the kitchen. She’s making tea for you.” When he looked surprised, she smiled. “Iain, I told you before you left that you bring us hope. This is the happiest I can remember Mother being. She is making tea because you like it and she knows that you will return as you said you would. Go tell her hello like you did me.”
“She might not appreciate a kiss like that yet.”
Ava grinned. “She might, but it is her place to decide. Now drop your hands and let me greet you.” Iain did and she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him gently on the lips. “Welcome back.”
“That was not on the cheek,” Iain noted.
Ava nodded as she stepped back. “We are betrothed, and I can kiss you on the lips if I want.”
“As long as your mother doesn’t jump at me with a stick outside of training because of it,” Iain said.
“Go see if she will.” Ava replied with a smirk.
Iain headed for the kitchen. Kasserine was standing and looking out the window as, on the stove, water was starting to steam. He leaned against the doorframe and watched her for a moment. “You look so thoughtful I don’t want to disturb you.”
She whirled at the sound of his voice, her hand going to the dagger on her belt. “Iain?” He nodded and she stepped towards him. “You are safe?”
She stopped in front of him. “I was worried about you. It feels strange to worry about you. I haven’t worried about anyone besides Ava for a very long time.” She looked thoughtful for a second. “I never worried about my son. His life, like mine, was bound to the throne and the Queen’s to do with as she wished. That is why I did not oppose her when she set him on the path he walks today.”
“While I am pleased you worried about me, I am unharmed and well.”
“I am glad,” she took his hands, “but I fear that I will worry about you whenever I do not know where you are. I hope you don’t think that’s foolish of me.”
“I don’t. If it helps, my family worries about me too, to the point that they’ve convinced me to have bodyguards most of the time.”
“Depending the situation, anywhere from one to many. When we go into battle, I have four guards, those being Dianthus, Pandora, Zareen and Lucifer.”
“Would they hesitate to lay down their lives for you?”
“Sadly, they would not.”
Kasserine frowned. “Sadly?”
“I am rather fond of all four of them and I don’t want them to die. Because I know they wouldn’t hesitate, I try to plan things so we stay out of much danger as we can.”
“That helps to alleviate my concerns greatly, Iain.” She took his hands and kissed him on the cheek. “Welcome back to my home.” He chuckled, and she frowned. “What is amusing.”
“I don’t want you to chase me with a stick like the boy you caught Ava in a hayloft with.”
Kasserine frowned and then her eyes narrowed. “That boy was Ava’s age as she now and she was only fifty when I found them. He is fortunate that they were still clothed or I would have slain him out of hand.”
“Oddly, she didn’t mention that tiny little detail.”
Kasserine raised an eyebrow. “Why did she tell you that story?”
“It came up after we kissed. She’s very enthusiastic and I stopped her because of her promise to you, which reminded her of that story.”
“It would. It’s when she made that promise to me.”
“That makes sense then.”
Kasserine kissed him on the cheek a second time. “Welcome back, Iain.”
“Ava kissed me on the lips,” Iain smiled amusedly. “She said that we are betrothed, so she could do so.”
Kasserine sighed. “I hope you don’t find her too forward.”
“I find her as she is,” Iain flashed a smile. “A horny young woman who desperately wants to grow up and who loves her mother with all of her heart.”
“She will make you a good wife,” Kasserine said. “Because you are betrothed and because I know you will marry her, I would let her lie with you now, but I fear that if I did she would be pregnant before the wedding. My upbringing won’t let me allow that.” When Iain frowned she smiled. “My daughter has not yet found anything about sex that she does not like. When she finds out how much fun sex can be, and I know you will make it pleasurable for her, she will be very vigorous in her demands on your attention.”
“What about you? What do you want from marriage to me?”
Kasserine shook her head. “There will be time enough to discuss our plans after you are married to Ava.”
Iain’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I know there are fey creatures here and I know that they come and go from Evermeet. Do you know much about them?”
Kasserine gave him a quizzical look. “I met several during my years at court. Evermeet and the Feywild are close friends and have several treaties.”
“Then you know about making deals with the fey, do you not?”
She chuckled and turned back to the stove to add herbs to the pot of boiling water and move it to the side. “I do. One must be very careful when negotiating with the fey.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Why do you bring this up now?”
“I am fey.”
She looked over her shoulder at him again with a frown. “Dragons are not fey.”
“Dragons born on this world are not fey. I am fey on my world. What does your ring tell you about what I just said?”
She turned to face him. “My ring says you’re not lying.”
“Good. You agreed to marry me. Nobody put a knife to your throat and forced you to agree to it. I asked you to marry me and you said yes.” He smiled. “You are not going to wait until I am married to Ava and then renege on that agreement. I will not let you.”
Kasserine’s eyes narrowed, and her face flushed. “Ava is perfect for you. She is young and untainted. Once she is your wife there will be no need for you to marry me. Kerrik will be satisfied and you will be safe from him. And Ava is so determined to fall in love with you that she will, and quickly. And you will be able to love her back. You will not need me and you don’t want me.” She shook her head. “Why would you ever want me?”
Iain sighed. “Please sit down.”
Her eyes flared angrily. “I don’t want to sit.”
“Then stand. It just means I have to stand here and block the door so you can’t leave while I talk to you.” Her hand went to her knife. “And if I try to touch you right now, I deserve to be stabbed for being an idiot.”
“You are being an idiot about me,” Kasserine said. “If I can stab you for being an idiot, I should stab you even if you haven’t touched me.”
“After we’re done, if you still want to stab me, I’ll let you as long as you don’t kill me.”
“You should remember that the more you talk right now, the more I want to stab you.”
“It can’t be me,” Iain muttered. “Maybe it is.” He leaned against the door frame. “Using emotion is wasted on you right now. You refuse to believe that I might actually want to marry you, even when your ring tells you that what I’m saying is the truth. Fine. What if I could present a logical argument about why I must marry you, even after I am married to Ava? Would you accept that?”
“If I do not, will you release me from my betrothal?”
“No. I’m trying to make you at least accept it, but I’m not letting you get away. I can’t.”
“Iain,” Ava said from behind him. “I could hear your voices in the library. What are you and Mother arguing about?”
“It is nothing that affects you,” Kasserine said. “Iain is just being an idiot.”
Ava put her hand on his shoulder and Iain slid aside for her. “Mother, I have never seen Iain be an idiot. He’s been silly and he’s been funny, but never stupid.”
“He’s being an idiot now.”
“Excuse me,” Iain said firmly. “Right now I have the floor and I’m not relinquishing it. I get to talk now. When I’m done, I’ll let you talk”
“Ava, leave,” Kasserine said.
“Ava might want to hear this,” Iain countered. “And it would be easier for her to hear it where she can see us than if she’s eavesdropping on our conversation.”
“I would like to know why you’re fighting,” Ava said quietly.
Kasserine let her breath out in a hiss. “Then sit and be quiet.” She leaned back against the counter as Ava pulled out the stool at the cutting counter and sat down. “Reason with me, Iain.”
“First, I must define some things,” Iain replied. “I’d like to make some statements about what I think is true. I will ask you if these things are true and I’d like you to say yes if they are or no if they are not.”
“What if they are only somewhat correct?”
“Then you may clarify what I don’t understand.” He looked at Ava. “And I will do the same thing with you, if you don’t mind.”
“You wanted to use reason with me,” Kasserine pointed out.
“I do, but I’m not going to ignore Ava when she’s here. And she might be able to help me understand something since she’s as smart as you are.”
“Then I need to know what this is about,” Ava said. “Why are you two arguing?”
Iain smiled. “Why don’t you explain it to her, Kasserine?”
“We are discussing reality,” Kasserine said. “The truth is that once he is married to you, there will no reason for him to marry me.”
Ava shot to her feet. “I can’t believe you’d do that to my mother,” she blazed at Iain. “If you won’t marry her then you’re not marrying me!”
“You’re yelling at the wrong person,” Iain said mildly. “I still want to marry her. And you too. She’s the one saying this garbage, not me.”
Ava turned to face Kasserine. “Mother,” she asked uncertainly.
“There are many reasons why my marrying Iain is a mistake,” Kasserine said.
“Most of them have to do with her past,” Iain said quietly. “She doesn’t think I can look past the rapes or the mistreatment and accept her as she is. She probably also doesn’t think my family can accept her either.”
“Will they be able to accept her,” Ava asked.
“Yes. I’ve talked about this with Ninhursag and April and they’ve checked with the harem. Her past isn’t going to be a problem with anyone in my family. And it isn’t going to become common knowledge outside of it. I’ve made two trips back to talk to them and used shadow walking so I was only gone here for a few minutes.”
“Why didn’t we know about this,” Ava asked.
“Without trying to be cruel,” Iain said, “this was about briefing my family about the situation and how it was changing. It wasn’t any of your business.”
“That makes sense,” Ava said. “Will it be our business when we’re your wives?”
“Yes, it will. Hopefully, however, you and Kasserine will be the last women I marry for a while.”
“Who did you talk to?”
“I talked to Ninhursag and April, my second and third in command. If I have to have another briefing, I’ll talk to Allison. Now, I’d like to return to the discussion and the clarifications, so I can give your mother a completely rational set of reasons as to why I have to marry her.”
“Please do so,” Ava said.
“All right.” Iain paused for a second to marshal his thoughts. “You love your mother. She is more important to you than you are, and you would never want to be separated from her. And she’s your only friend.”
“That’s not true,” Ava said. “Dancer is my friend and so are you. However, other than the two of you, yes, what you said was true.”
Iain looked at Kasserine. “You love your daughter. She is easily the most important thing that has ever been in your life and you have been happiest after she was born up to now. Arguably, this is the only time in your life that you have been even a little happy.”
Kasserine started to speak and stopped. Finally she shook her head. “No. I was happy while I was growing up.”
“Are you sure? I think you weren’t unhappy, but you weren’t happy either. After all, you got stuck with one of the most thankless and frustrating jobs in all of Evermeet.”
“I don’t understand. I didn’t have a job.”
Iain looked at Ava. “Every noble couple has to have children and they have to have at the very least, two of them. The first is their heir and is raised to know as much as she can about what the family’s responsibilities and obligations are because one day she will be queen. The second, your mother, is given the exact same education and has the exact same knowledge and training and the only way she will ever fulfil her destiny is if her sister dies before she can have children of her own. She grows up knowing that she will never take the position she is being groomed for except in the worst possible tragedy and then, finally, becomes completely useless and dependent on the whims of the court and her sister for every aspect of her life, even if she and the heir both know that she would do a much better job as queen. That knowledge, by the bye, breeds a great deal of resentment in the heir since she knows that every decision is being judged by her sister and her parents, who find her not as capable as your mother.”
“That isn’t true,” Kasserine said. “My sister was an outstanding queen and better than I ever could have been.”
“That is a lie,” Selsharra’s voice came from behind Iain. She stepped past him into the kitchen. “And you know it is, Kasserine. You would have been a historic queen, and your sister, her daughter and her daughter were not.”
Iain smiled slightly. “You’re going to find that humans have a flair for cruelty that is wrapped around unpleasant truths. In human nobility, the situation with your mother and her sister would be sometimes referred to as the heir and the spare, with your mother being the spare that everyone desperately hoped would never be used.”
“That phrase is known here too,” Selsharra said. “And it can be just as cruel to the one who is not the heir as you suggest the human version is.”
“But to get back to the discussion I want to focus on, Kasserine, you love Ava with all of your heart and you would fight tooth and nail to keep from being separated from her. Losing her would break you.”
Kasserine nodded. “Yes.”
Iain had been watching Ava as Kasserine talked in order to gauge the younger elf’s responses. Now he turned to Kasserine again. “Since we can now agree on these points, I can use logic. I have four options in dealing with the situation that you and Ava present, but only one of these is actually viable. The first is that I don’t marry either one of you and instead return home without you. This isn’t an option because the threat that Kerrik represents is still present and, if after telling him that I’m going to marry you two, I don’t, he will be rather upset and I will be dead. Since one of the reasons I am here is to avoid being dead, choosing that option would make me as stupid as Kasserine said I am.”
“Reasonable,” Selsharra said.
“My second option is to marry Ava and not Kasserine. This also is a losing proposition. In doing so I would make Ava inner clan while Kasserine would be outer clan and she wouldn’t have the access to her daughter that she would want. Her opinion of us would rapidly sour and she would start trying to either get access to the inner clan or to convince Ava to leave with her. It would also make Ava unhappy, which I don’t want.”
“It would,” Ava murmured.
Iain nodded. “It would also keep Kasserine from having any sort of loyalty to the clan, giving Kerrik eyes into what we’re doing. That’s none of his business unless we want him to know about it, and often we don’t. If we do, I tell him about whatever it is.”
“That’s logical,” Kasserine admitted.
“The third option is to marry Kasserine and not Ava.” He smiled at Ava. “You’re a passionate young woman.” She giggled. “And I will enjoy that passion being directed at me when we are married. But if I were stupid enough to break the betrothal with you and marry your mother, you would be furious, and that anger would quickly turn to hate. And while you were hating us, you would refuse to leave, so I’d have a woman who hated at least me around all of the time. That’s pretty stupid. I can’t get rid of you and I can’t kill you because Kerrik would kill me.”
He smiled again. “The fourth option is what I’ve been trying to do since I met you and Ava suggested it. I marry both of you. It has also become the safest route for me and my clan to travel and that is regardless of my personal feelings on the matter.”
“What are those feelings,” Selsharra asked.
“In the short time I have known them as real people, and in spite of Kasserine’s attempts to dissuade me, I have become rather attached to both of them. I wouldn’t have let Ava have her way with accepting a marriage proposal I hadn’t given her or asked Kasserine to marry me if I weren’t.”
“What of Kasserine’s checkered past?”
“I don’t care about what she’s alleged to have done and I don’t care about what she’s actually done to get to today. I am in a better position than most to know what has really happened during her life and I still don’t care. I will never use any rumor or her past against her and, if any of her new family tries, I will find out about it and I will crush them, and they know it. And if any of our enemies try anything like that I will crush them so thoroughly that there will be nothing left but a little paste of meat. All I feel for what she had to do is admiration.”
Kasserine frowned. “You do?”
“You did what you had to do. I have had to make those kinds of decisions too and I know just how hard it is to do that. And in spite of everything that has happened, you are still a polite, caring woman who has managed to raise an exemplary child and you did it without help. I’d say I feel nothing but admiration for her, but she has that ring and she would know it for the lie it is.”
Selsharra raised an eyebrow. “What else do you feel for her?”
“I’m not sure I should answer that question. Kasserine is a proud woman and I don’t want to embarrass her.”
Kasserine was watching him curiously. “Please answer it.” He hesitated, and she smiled. “I am with my family and you, Iain and you are the man I am betrothed to. I doubt you can embarrass me, and, if I am wrong, Ava and Selsharra will overlook any embarrassment. What else do you feel for me.”
Kasserine stared at him uncomprehendingly for several seconds before she slowly flushed. “Lust,” she asked in a voice slightly higher than normal.
Ava giggled. “I think Mother wasn’t expecting that. Why do you lust after my mother?”
“Please don’t answer that,” Kasserine said as Iain opened his mouth.
Iain nodded. “Very well.”
“Mother, don’t you want to know the details?”
Kasserine fixed her daughter with a stern look as her blush began to fade. “You don’t need to know. You are already teasing Iain unmercifully. He doesn’t need more of the same from you.”
Ava gave Iain a triumphant look. “He seemed to like my teasing.”
“Iain is trying to do what I asked about you,” Kasserine said. “If I have to get another stick, it will be for you, child.”
Ava laughed. “Yes, Mother. Will you continue this discussion with Iain later?”
“I believe I will,” Kasserine said with a glance at Iain. She pushed away from the counter and walked to stand in front of him. “Stand straight.” Iain did, and she looked into his eyes. “I have not yet heard the logic behind why you should marry both of us.”
“It would satisfy Kerrik’s requirements and it would make him even more pleased with me because he’d know I was working to make both his sister and his mother happier than they would have been during the coming years. Having both of you in my family would strengthen us, and it would strengthen us more than having only one of you in it would. It would also improve the clan’s chances for survival. Additionally, it would eliminate the possibility that either of you would become our enemy because I had married the other and caused conflict between you two.” He smiled slightly. “It would make you less likely to stab me without warning and it would confuse the hell out of a man named Shikarou, who says he wants to be our friend but hasn’t done shit towards actually becoming our friend.”
Kasserine raised an eyebrow. “Who is he?”
“He is the king of one of the three most powerful factions on the planet, the other two being us and Kerrik’s group. He’s the former husband of one of my wives and, if you accept him, he and his brother Faelan are your grandsons and Ava’s nephews, although they were born after Kerrik changed so Selsharra wouldn’t be interested in them.”
“I would like to meet them.”
“I’ll set it up after you and Ava get settled in your new home.”
“Good. I find your logic to be valid. You will not release me from the betrothal to you?”
She smiled warmly at him. “Then I have no choice but to accept the situation and marry you after you marry Ava. You will marry her the day after she becomes an adult and I will marry you on the second full moon after she marries you.” She draped her arms around his neck and kissed him gently on the lips. “Welcome back, my betrothed.”
Iain stopped in the trees and looked back at Kasserine and Ava where they sat on his back. “Ladies, it’s time for you to dismount.” As soon as they were on the ground he changed back to his elf form.
Ava looked around with a grin. “I don’t see any moon horses here, so you should be safe this time.”
“You’re not funny,” Iain said as he pulled the Dikon from his pocket. “How was I to know that when you and Kasserine took me to meet Dancer and her herd that the herd stallion would feel threatened by the illusion Kasserine put on me and attack me. The bastard’s lucky I didn’t kill him after he bit me in the neck.”
Kasserine put her hand on his shoulder. “What did happen? I saw you jerk your head and he fell down.”
“What you cast on me is an illusion. I am still the dragon horse underneath it. When that idiot bit me, it hurt but his teeth didn’t penetrate my scales, so he didn’t draw blood. All I got was a huge bruise. If I’d bitten him back he’d have probably bled out because my teeth are a dragon’s teeth. I figured Dancer would be rather upset if I killed her breeding stallion, so instead I whacked him on the head with my horn, which nobody could see because of the illusion. I didn’t intend to hit him so hard that I knocked him out.” He grimaced. “It hurt too. Apparently my horn isn’t supposed to be used as a club.”
“Dancer thinks you’re a handsome stallion,” Ava said. He could hear the laugh in her voice. “She said she has never seen a more handsome and powerful stallion.”
Iain shot her an annoyed look. “I am not breeding any moon horse.” He activated the Dikon and unlocked the container it held. “I am going to breed Golden Cloud and she’s it.” He pulled fourteen head sized spheres from the container, carelessly tossing them around the area as he did. “Now that your twee are awake, one of the things you’ll learn you can do with them is control a lot of our technology.” Activation codes sent, his twee told him. Diagnostic checks ongoing. “Later I’ll show you what I mean with your phones.”
Ava was peering at one of the spheres. “What are these?”
“They’re survey satellites. I’m going to put them into polar orbits above Toril and they’ll spend the time after that mapping the surface of Toril for us. That’s how we’ll get accurate maps of the planet. With those maps we can figure out where might be a good place to put a base.” Diagnostics complete. Initiating startup on the satellites.
Iain had brought the Dikon with the satellites, phones for the ladies and some other stuff back from Thirteen when he’d gone to visit Allison a week ago.
The satellites lifted off and hovered a meter in the air. Kasserine glanced at him. “How do they fly?”
I’m sending her and Ava a basic understanding of gravity and how we counteract it.
Kasserine looked back at the satellite. “There is so much that we have not learned.”
“It turns out that many worlds either walk a path of magic or one of technology,” Iain said. “Some veer from one path to the other over the course of their history, but very few walk both paths at the same time. The Tirsuli clans do. This world walks the magical path, so your sages don’t know much about the technological side of things. The world I originally came from walked the path of technology, so I didn’t know much about magic for most of my life.”
“But you’re a dragon,” Ava protested.
“He told us how he wasn’t always a dragon,” Kasserine pointed out.
Satellites ready for deployment, Iain’s twee sent him. I am copying to the other twee here.
“What does ready for deployment mean,” Ava asked him.
“It is a military term,” Kasserine answered. “It means that the unit is ready to go do its job.”
Ava looked excited. “My twee was telling me the same thing while you were, Mother. I wish I’d had it while I was your student.”
“You are still my student,” Kasserine said. She looked at Iain. “Will it help us with the things Kerrik will have us studying?”
“Some of it. And since it’ll have access to the network it’ll be able to help explain a lot of things in whatever detail you want. Right now, it’s accessing my twee for information and I certainly don’t know everything.”
“You know more than I do,” Ava pointed out.
Iain shook his head. “You know how to cast a fireball or a cloud of poisonous gas. I don’t.”
“Mother will teach you,” Ava said confidently. “She can teach anyone anything.”
“You overvalue my ability to teach,” Kasserine looked lovingly at her daughter. “However, Iain has proven intelligent and diligent, which means there is no reason why he cannot eventually learn how to cast both. But with our new twee, there is no reason that you cannot eventually learn to build an,” her words slowed as she sounded them out, “antigravity generator.”
Ava nodded. “Have you done that, Iain?”
He smiled. “I did make a small one once so I could understand the process, but it requires machining tolerances that are much easier to achieve with a weaver. It took me weeks to get it right. The most important thing I learned was that when you’re testing something like that to see if it works, you want some really thick metal walls and a forcefield between you and it. The failures I had were spectacularly disastrous.”
“Was it worse than the bomb I accidentally made,” Ava asked.
“Yes. It would have turned your house and everything inside it into a widely scattered collection of very small pebbles and other debris.” One by one, the satellites shot into the air and disappeared into the sky. They’d travel together until they got to the North pole and then twelve of them would separate out thirty degrees from each other to begin traveling Toril’s longitudinal lines to map the surface with visual scanning as well as radar and laser mapping. The other two would take up position with one above each pole where they could collect data from all the mapping satellites concurrently. Then they’d send it to the satellite that had contact with Iain’s phone at the time so it could be downloaded regularly. When he left in twelve days, they would continue refining and store the data until someone called for it.
Iain watched until the last one disappeared into the sunny sky. “That’s it. We can head back to the house and go back to packing.” He shifted to his dragon horse form and the illusion Kasserine had cast earlier went back into effect as he moved to a stand next to a rock so they could mount easily.
“What do I tell Dancer when she asks about our new stallion,” Ava asked with a grin once she was settled on his back.
“You tell her he said no, Ava,” Kasserine replied. “He said he’s not interested. If you make his life difficult he may take the time he needs to deal with Dancer out of the time he would have instead spent with you.”
“Oh,” Ava said. “I’ll tell her he’s already claimed.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the back of the neck. “You are claimed, by Mother and me.”
“Don’t forget he has a family waiting for him, Ava,” Kasserine said chidingly. “Iain, how are they going to receive us?”
Iain turned and headed for the house at a brisk walk. “I’ve been told that everyone is excited about you two joining the clan and the family. When we get there, you’ll probably get a couple of days to settle in and then you will be taken on a tour of our land and you’ll get the chance to meet everyone in the inner clan who is available, which should be almost everyone. Lucifer and Eve are in the middle of getting the Sisterhood mercenaries settled in Tamaulipas while the envoys from the area are meeting with President Robinson, so they most likely will not be there. In the meantime, Golden Cloud will take Dancer and the moon horse herd and show them where the best food is. After settling in, April will get your physicals taken care of and your combat tests scheduled. He glanced over his shoulder at them. “It’s going to be very hectic for both of you, but hopefully you’ll be having fun with most of it and so it won’t matter. If you ever feel we’re being too friendly and you need a break, just tell Theodora and she’ll make sure you get what you need. If you have a problem with something that’s going on, use your twee to contact me immediately and we’ll get it straightened out.”
“What about you,” Kasserine asked.
“I’ll try to be with you pretty much constantly in the beginning since I’m the only person you really know, unless you’d rather do this without me.”
“I would not,” Kasserine replied.
“Me either,” Ava interjected.
“I realize that you probably will have a lot of things that will need your attention,” Kasserine said. “We’ll understand if you can’t be with us.”
“I will have a lot of things to do,” Iain replied with glance over his shoulder. “And none of it is more important than getting you settled in, so I’ll do what I can through my twee and in quick meetings here and there if necessary. The rest can wait for a few days.” His ears flicked. “Later, I will take you by Kerrik’s place so you can meet his harem. You’ll going there to study with him and meeting Raven and the others first might help.”
Kasserine was looking at him curiously. “Kerrik has a harem too?”
“He does.” Iain slowed to a stop and twisted his head so he could see the women with an eye. “Kerrik is a lot older than you are, Kasserine. You can’t think of him as the young man your sister banished. That person vanished inside what Kerrik is now. If he were to meet your sister today, he’d listen to her proclamation and then probably give her the finger before going about his business.”
Ava frowned. “What is the finger?”
“If you hold up your middle finger alone, by folding down the others, it is a very rude gesture in my culture. It means fuck you.”
“Why would he do something like that to my aunt?”
“He’d do it to show his disdain for her assumption that she had authority over him. He’s gotten pretty powerful since leaving court and he has little tolerance for idiots.”
“Would you have given her this finger?”
“No. I’m not and I have never been a subject of the ruling families of Evermeet. If they want to kick me out of their country, I’ll leave. Other than you ladies, this place has nothing in it that I can’t get somewhere else. There’s nothing here worth fighting for.”
“What if they wouldn’t let us go with you?”
“That would be something worth fighting for.” Iain started walking again. “And then the ruler would regret challenging me. When I have something worth fighting for, it’s worth fighting for completely and I tend to cheat.”
Ava’s eyes lit up. “What if we were in a dungeon and you couldn’t rescue us. Would you wage war against Evermeet’s military to get us back?”
Iain accelerated to a smooth lope. “Let me make sure I understand the situation. You’ve been arrested by the forces of the king and put in a dungeon I can’t get into?”
“Yes,” Ava said excitedly. “What would you do?”
“Well, I don’t think killing a bunch of people who only made the mistake of joining the military would do much to resolve the situation,” Iain said thoughtfully. “But I think that once I had the king’s wife and family as my prisoners, he’d be willing to listen to reason. Of course, if I could get my hands on him, then his courtiers would probably be ready to release you if I insisted that was his ransom.”
Ava looked offended. “You can’t kidnap the king!”
“I most certainly can.”
“That’s not noble at all!”
Iain laughed. “Those romance novels I found in the library must belong to you. There’s nothing noble about slaughtering helpless soldiers. It’s about getting you and Kasserine back with me where you belong.”
Kasserine shook her head. “In that situation,” she said quietly, “would you honor your agreement and release the king and his family once we were free?”
“I would. I do what I say I will.”
“Ava, he is being nobler than many nobles that I have known.” She smiled. “Iain, would you protect Ava from a gang of ruffians?”
His ears flicked. “That depends.”
Ava scowled. “Why wouldn’t you defend me? I thought you liked me.”
“I do. I like you a lot. I also know you’re proud and you’re more than capable of defeating just about any gang of ruffians without my help and you might get annoyed with me if you didn’t get to fight them. Now I would help you if you were being defeated by that gang of ruffians. I wouldn’t wait until you were in dire trouble before helping, either, and I’d be merciless towards them. And if for some reason you couldn’t fight a gang of ruffians, I would exterminate them to protect you.”
Kasserine laughed. “He’s right about your pride.”
Ava giggled. “He is,” she admitted.
“Take us home, Iain,” Kasserine commanded. “We will finish packing and be gone before the king can have us kidnapped.”
Kasserine watched amusedly as Iain carefully laid out the cuttings on some wet cloth that had been stretched out on the worktable. Then he rolled the cloth up and labeled it with a marker before putting it into the Dikon container with the other rolls of damp cloth holding plant cuttings. “You have taken cuttings of everything in my garden, Iain,” she said as he sat up and wiped at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his forearm. “There is nothing else.”
“Where did you plant the herbs for the tea?”
Kasserine laughed. “Are you going to dig the dirt up for the seeds?”
“No, I’m going to use magic to grow them out of season so I can get cuttings.”
She looked surprised. “Ava should see this too. Please wait until I get her.”
Iain shrugged. “You haven’t shown me where they are so there’s not much I can do until you do so.”
“Come with me.” Kasserine led him to a section of the garden where the soil had been carefully covered with a thick layer of dried grass as mulch. “I protect the seeds from birds, weeds and winter. After the early spring storms have passed, I remove most of the grass so the herbs can flourish. Now I’ll fetch Ava while you wait.”
Iain knelt. “I’ll remove most of this while you’re getting her, but that’s all I’ll do until you two get back here.”
“Thank you.” She hurried away as Iain started carefully pulling up the mulch. He was surprised to see that she’d mixed in tree leaves and some animal manure, presumably moon horse, and chided himself softly for his surprise. While she wasn’t technologically advanced, Kasserine had already proven to be remarkably sophisticated and, as he’d already pointed out, rather intelligent. So the fact that she knew that the manure would leach into the ground beneath it during rains and that mixing tree leaves into the mix would keep the grass from forming too dense a mulch and keeping moisture and oxygen from penetrating into the earth it protected shouldn’t be a surprise.
Since he wasn’t sure where the plot ended, Iain put the mulch he’d removed on the path beside him. He figured it would either go back where it had been or he’d move it to wherever Kasserine told him to put it.
When Kasserine returned with Ava, he was sitting on his knees with his eyes closed. Ava sat down next to him, smoothing out her skirt as she did. “What are you doing?”
“Ninhursag and other Elfqueens,” Iain said quietly without opening his eyes, “as well as Elf pokegirls, to a lesser degree, can sense plant life around them. It’s a prerequisite to commanding plants to do things and I’m working to learn how to do it.” His eyes opened and he glanced at Ava. “You don’t have to keep your eyes closed when doing something like this, but sometimes it helps to keep distractions to a minimum.”
“What can you tell now,” Kasserine asked.
Iain gestured at the ground. “I could feel the seeds here and then started extending out my range to see where the boundaries of this patch ended. I thought I was finished removing the dried grass. I found out when I looked that I was wrong and you’d planted a much larger area than I’d figured, so I cleared all of it and then was making checking again to make sure I’d uncovered all of the seeds.”
Kasserine nodded approvingly. “You found the entire bed. I plant as much as I can since these herbs sell for a premium and we can use all of the income I can provide.” She glanced at him. “Are you aware of the groups I have been forced to associate with over the years because of my past?”
“I am and I still don’t care,” Iain said with a smile. “Those days are over for you and Ava, hopefully forever.”
Ava frowned. “I don’t want to sound greedy, but is your clan rich?”
Iain chuckled. “You saw how much money was in the Dikon, didn’t you?”
“Is that considered being rich here?”
“Not for one of the older clans,” Ava replied slowly. “Some of them have vast treasures available for use.”
“And some of them are very poor due to mismanagement,” Kasserine said. “It is always about the people involved, Ava. With the wrong leader, a clan can go from very wealthy indeed to completely bankrupt in less than a generation.”
Iain nodded. “In my family, everyone has almost everything that he or she wants,” he said quietly. “None of us go to bed hungry and we are not forced to do things that we don’t want to in order to make ends meet. The problem with the word rich is that it is exceedingly vague, and it means different to different people and that can even change for an individual throughout the course of her life. As far as the minerals that people value for commerce such as gold and silver, we have enough, and we have access to quantities of them that would beggar the imagination. We gather them as we need them, but we don’t treasure them for themselves. He pulled a silver coin from his pocket and handed it to Ava. “But you can’t eat that and, in times that are very difficult, sometimes you can’t even trade it for enough food to survive. Its value changes according to circumstance, so how many of them you need to be rich changes too.” Both women were watching him with curious expressions. “Our children and we are usually happy. All of our needs are met and most of our wants are too. We are free and we can do almost anything that we want when we want to. So, yes, I think we are incredibly wealthy, but how many coins we have in our possession isn’t how we define how well off we are.” He smiled slowly. “And now you and Kasserine are coming to join us and, for the most part, what we have is yours too. You will still have personal possessions that you do not have to share. Everyone else will too, but what is ours is yours,” he nodded towards her hand, “including that coin and the others like it.”
“What about all of the money you brought here,” Kasserine asked.
“The locals would call it counterfeit since it wasn’t minted by the Evermeet government, but it is a copy of money that Kerrik and I received here for some trade goods, so it’s accurate in its purity and weight, and has been aged to look like it’s been in circulation,” Iain said. “That coin was made for us to use here. What we don’t use I don’t have much use for and I’ll give it back to the person who made it for us and she’ll probably melt it down and use it for something else. Why?”
“We are leaving Evermeet,” Kasserine said slowly. “And we are unlikely to return for some time. There are debts that I have not paid and I do not like the idea of leaving them unpaid. Those tradesmen gave me credit because they trusted me to repay them. May I use some of that money to repay that trust?”
“Now that the books of the library are packed for the move there’s plenty of space in that room.” Iain smiled at her. “I’ll set up the Dikon with the money in there and you can take what you need without having to come to me for it. Ava too.”
“You would trust us that much,” Ava asked.
“You and your mother have trusted me enough to let me live with you for a month,” Iain replied. “I know that nobody has done that since long before you were born. I have no way to adequately tell you just how much I value the trust you have given me, so I haven’t tried to explain it. But I can repay that trust by trusting you. If you need or want that money, it’s yours and I don’t want you to have to come ask me for it because that would suggest that I don’t trust you.” He smiled. “I could have stayed at an inn or pitched a tent somewhere out on the plains, but you wanted me here. If I didn’t trust you and you didn’t trust me, I would not be here. But I do, so here I am and here we are together. So I’ll set up the Dikon in the library and you can spend what you want from it. All I ask is that you remember that I’m not a nice person.” Ava looked confused as he continued. “If you spend so much in one area or overall that it draws attention to us, it could go poorly for anyone showing up to search this home or confiscate what is here. I’m not going to let outlanders take our possessions and I will kill to protect what is yours.” His smile was slightly predatory. “So, for their continued health and wellbeing, I would ask that you spend with discretion. You two are welcome to all the money there, but anyone else trying to take some will be fortunate if I only keep the hand they touched it with and let the rest of their body and life escape.”
“What if I wanted to give some of it to others as charity,” Kasserine asked curiously.
“I am not going to put conditions on how you may use that money,” Iain replied. He looked at the ground. “None at all. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to try and impress you two by growing these herbs.”
“One last question,” Ava said. “You don’t care how we spend this money?”
Iain shook his head. “I care very much, and I will insist if I can that you spend the money wisely. I don’t want you to waste it. But I know you’re not going to do that.”
She looked surprised. “You do?”
“I have seen your room. You like to collect things and you don’t like letting go of something once it’s yours, but you collect nice things and you seem to be very careful about what you collect. So while I realize you’ll probably use some of that money to buy something you’ve been waiting to be able to afford, that’s what it’s for.” He grinned for an instant. “And I trust your mother’s opinion and she’s been watching this discussion without announcing that it would be a terrible idea to give you access to this money. She knows what I’ll do to thieves and she’d warn me so I didn’t have to kill any more of her subjects than I absolutely have to.”
Kasserine looked surprised, but Ava merely looked confused. “I don’t understand.”
Iain looked at Kasserine. “Would you like to explain it to her or should I?”
“I would like to hear how you would explain it. If it is insufficient, I will help you.”
He nodded. “Ava, it isn’t hard to explain, but sometimes it is difficult to understand unless you have experienced it. Kasserine was a princess. She was raised to look at everyone else as people that she might one day have to rule over. From almost the day of her birth, this is what she was trained to do, and she was a full adult when it became clear the she would never be queen. That is not something that you can just put aside in an instant and, for some people, it can never be put aside. Your mother is like that and she will always be a princess and she will always see everyone except her family as her subjects, even if she will never be queen. And she was raised to see those subjects as near and dear to her heart, second only to her immediate family. It’s why she doesn’t want me to slaughter the High Wizards if they come when I open the gate we’ll use to leave. She still considers them her subjects and she will not let them be murdered unless they have done something to deserve it. Doing their duty to Evermeet by trying to keep people from coming and going as they wish will never rise to the level of a condemnable act, even if they are trying to prevent her and us from traveling that way.” He looked at Kasserine. “Well?”
“Your explanation was excellent.” She looked at Ava. “As poorly as they have treated me since I left the clan, I cannot forget that they are my subjects and those who are doing their jobs for the kingdom are worthy of every grace they can be given. Even the thieves here would have been my subjects, to protect and nurture as I could and also to order their execution if their thievery became too excessive. What a ruler must remember is that even thieves can serve the crown and having them all killed means they won’t be able to serve the crown if it becomes necessary. The royal family must survive for the kingdom to survive is what the current rulers teach. That is a lie. The kingdom survived our family and it will survive the king’s. Yes, there must be a ruler and it was once our duty to be that ruler, but without citizens there will be no kingdom to rule. Iain understands this for he has made plans for the clan to survive his death.”
“Iain was right that it’s hard to understand.” Ava frowned.
“You weren’t raised that way,” Iain said. “I don’t think that way either, but I’m willing to listen to Kasserine when she does and wants me to help her not feel guilty about something.”
“And yet you do understand what I think about them,” Kasserine noted. “You would make an excellent ruler.”
“I don’t think so, which is why I’ve surrounded myself with competent advisers,” Iain disagreed. “I don’t have the empathy needed to be a good leader.”
“I will determine that when I meet your advisors,” Kasserine said. “After all, a ruler who has too much empathy is as weak as one who is completely ruthless.”
“That we can agree on.” Iain looked at the ground. “I’m going to start on the herbs now.”
Ava inched sideways until her hip was pressed against his. “Start.”
Iain looked at her and she smiled and kissed his nose. “Ava,” her mother said warningly.
“He is our betrothed,” Ava retorted. “Am I not allowed to kiss my betrothed in a nonsexual fashion?”
“I don’t think that’s really possible,” Iain said with an amused smile. He glanced at Kasserine before returning his attention to Ava. “You are pretty much sex personified and it seems like almost everything you do around me reeks of sex.”
Ava’s eyes lit up. “Do you really think so,” she asked eagerly.
“Please do not encourage her any further,” Kasserine said quickly as Iain opened his mouth to reply. “In spite of what we both know she wants, I would still like my daughter to be a virgin on her wedding night.”
“I believe you made your mother a promise,” Iain told Ava firmly. “She has not released you from that promise.”
“I know,” Ava said with a grin. “But I also know there’s a lot a man and a woman can do without her losing her virginity.”
Kasserine started to say something but stopped when Iain held up a hand without looking away from Ava. “I don’t think your resolve is that firm, my betrothed,” Iain said quietly. “More importantly, I didn’t make your mother any promises about you, so I definitely don’t trust myself not to start our family early. And you’re right that there is a lot that lovers can do without actually having intercourse, but I am not going to get you sexually excited and then leave you without what you will swear to me that you desperately need, so the only way to ensure that I don’t help you break your promise to your mother is to keep things chaste between us. You are too much of a temptation otherwise.”
Ava’s cheeks flushed slightly. “I am?”
“Yes, you are,” Kasserine said. “And you know that you are Iain’s temptress. Iain, please proceed.”
Ava gave him a happy smile as he shook his head slowly and looked back at the garden plot. “Evil, twisted woman,” he muttered, making her giggle. That giggle broke off in a gasp when the herb plot suddenly turned green with shoots pushing up through the thin layer of mulch he’d left.
Kasserine settled down on his other side and leaned forward to watch as the shoots rapidly grew until they were nearly a foot tall. “Can I talk to you while you do this?”
“Just a moment,” he muttered. “This is a bit new and I want to stay focused.” As Kasserine watched, the plants extruded buds, some of which opened before the plants stopped developing. Iain took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Now we can talk.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen them look so healthy,” she said as she traced a leaf with a fingertip. “These, particularly, never grow this large, but I was told by the gardener that they are from a much hotter and wetter place originally and that they would never achieve their real potential.”
“The magic I use ignores those restrictions,” Iain replied. “If you’ll help me take the cuttings, when we’re done you can have the rest of them to do whatever you want with.”
“There are no seeds,” Ava noted. “How will you grow them without seeds?”
“Ninhursag will take the cuttings we bring her and grow roots on them before planting them and growing them until they seed and pollinate. That’s why I stopped them before they pollinated and set seed. She’ll want to do that.” He smiled. “It’s not that she doesn’t trust me to do it, it’s that she doesn’t trust anyone to do it better than she can.”
Kasserine nodded. “It doesn’t sound like that bothers you.”
“It doesn’t. She’s much better at this than I am and her way of doing this works well. The first part of her life was spent as a soldier and she loves growing plants far more than breaking things and hurting people. I want to give her as many opportunities as I can to allow her to indulge that love since the world will give her way too many chances to be a soldier again.”
Ava frowned. “Breaking things and hurting people? What does that mean?”
Iain glanced at Kasserine and she smiled. “I would like to hear your explanation since I have never heard that phrase before either.”
“War, boiled down to its most elemental form, is a simple. A group of people attacks another group of people. Each side tries to hurt the other, by breaking their things, which could be burning their crops, destroying their homes and the attacker’s supply chain, and killing or injuring the people on the other side, until one side has had enough and they retreat or capitulate. Unlike what generals and romantics say about war, there is no glory. Any honor is always situational and based on the beliefs and behavior of the leaders of either side. Killing the soldiers of the other side works but if you’re facing a rational enemy it’s actually better to wound the soldiers.”
Kasserine had raised an eyebrow. “That is not what I was taught. Why is that your belief?”
“If you kill a soldier, he falls on the ground and gets retrieved after the battle is over. At that point, one person is out of the fight. But if you wound him with an arrow in the knee or the belly, potentially three people leave the fight because it will take one or two others to remove him from the line of battle and take him to the rear where his injuries can be treated.” Iain’s smile was grim. “It’s simple math. It doesn’t work against every foe, but even if they don’t recover their wounded until after the battle, taking care of or evacuating wounded people depletes far more resources that an army would want for more productive uses than burying the dead does. So while a bunch of wounded after every battle might not effect that battle, over time they will definitely effect the war.” He nodded solemnly at Ava’s horrified expression. “I don’t like war either. War is ugly, and war is cold and cruel. Anyone who believes otherwise has not truly experienced what war is.”
“Have you experienced this,” Ava asked him in a quiet voice.
“We try to avoid pitched battles if we can,” Iain replied. “But we have been in some fairly heavy battles and I work with Lucifer very diligently to give our side every possible advantage against our foes so we keep our casualties to as few as possible. So far we have been fortunate and our planning has kept our losses and wounded to a minimum. You are going to find that means we train very hard indeed so we are able to react quickly to take advantage of any openings and outfight our enemies before they can severely hurt us.”
“Like in your duel with Zarn?”
Iain nodded. “Exactly like that, we study our possible foes and plan how to defeat them as quickly and decisively as possible. If we cannot, then we will seek to avoid battle if we can. If that isn’t possible we will fight as hard as we can while still trying to seek that advantage while minimizing our casualties as much as possible.”
“That is enough talk of war,” Kasserine said suddenly. She reached for the shears Iain had been using to take cuttings. “After we take the cuttings you want, we will harvest the rest of the plants and I will show you how to dry the herbs and what proportions in which to mix them to make the tea we all drink. Ava, it is time you learned this too.”
“Yes, Mother,” Ava said obediently.
Iain slapped the reins lightly on the backs of the moon horses pulling the wagon to let them know he was about to give a command and they obediently slowed and halted when he tugged on them. He looked at Kasserine, who sat next to him. “I can smell him. Kerrik is around here somewhere.”
“I don’t smell anything except some kind of wolf,” Stalker, the stallion who’d volunteered to help pull the wagon, said. His ears flicked. “I don’t recognize it, but I know that’s a wolf.”
“You smell Kerrik,” Iain said as handed the reins to Kasserine. He stood and gave a shrill whistle. There was the sound of racing hooves and Ava rode up to them on Dancer as Kerrik appeared next to a bush that looked too small to hide him. Iain dropped to the ground next to the wagon. “I’ll be right back.”
“Be careful,” Kasserine said. Iain looked curiously at her and she smiled. “I never thought I’d marry after everything that has happened to me. Now I’m getting used to the idea of being betrothed and I want to see what marriage is like.”
Iain nodded “I’ll be careful.” He headed forward and stopped a dozen meters from Kerrik. Is that you, he said through is twee.
Kerrik chuckled. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“There are gods around here and they might have some perverse reason to pretend to be you,” Iain said.
Kerrik snorted. “The few of them that care about me at all think I’m still halfway around the world playing the Big C’s games. I figured out how he detected me and came up with a way to keep it from happening again.”
“Are you coming with us then?”
Kerrik shook his head. “I’ll finish his list first. Kasserine and I have been talking since her twee woke up and I know you’ll be coming back. Finishing the list might make him ignore your presence. And I might return later too. While what we are doing hasn’t changed my past, it has branched the history of this world onto a new path and I’m curious how it’ll develop differently, if at all. Tell Raven I’ll be back in two days.”
Kerrik frowned, looking past Iain. “I thought you were bringing only about thirty moon horses. I see a couple of hundred of them and they look like they’re following you.”
Iain shrugged. “They are. Apparently, Dancer is some kind of nobility among the moon horses and she asked some other herd mares to join her on this trek.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing. I didn’t agree to breed anybody and otherwise I don’t really care.” He looked over his shoulder. “We have plenty of room for them and I’ll put out the word in the townships around my property in case they don’t stay on my land.”
“They will be outlanders on your property,” Kerrik pointed out.
“I’ve already spoken to Dancer and she agrees that the herds under her command will become satellite clan. Satellite clan doesn’t usually have to go on our trips and it doesn’t have to train with us. Individuals will be, of course, allowed to petition for promotion to outer clan where the rules are different.”
Kerrik gave a low whistle. “The original clans were a mix of mortal and immortal, but you’re setting up quite the assortment of races in yours.”
“I know. And since the moon horses are currently in a debate on whether or not they want twee as a group, it’ll only get more interesting as the years pass.” He sighed. “I like Kasserine and Ava, even with their issues, but this crap is starting to wear on me. The tour from the snobbish representative from the High Council to make sure the house was suitably clean was annoying as fuck. Then there was the sudden visit from Clan Bluebottle to find out just where we were taking so many moon horses. What a fucking mess that was.”
“Bluebottle?” Kerrik frowned. “They died out centuries ago.”
“No, that’s in the past that may not be the future, remember?”
Kerrik chuckled. “Oh, right. I am going to have to come up to speed on the current political situation.”
“Right now they’re on the High Council because of their leadership in the moon horse breeding program. I will not be surprised, when a DNA analysis is run on the moon horses, if I find out that they’re part horse and part elf. I swear the clan representative sounded like we were stealing her cousins.”
“What did you tell them?”
“I presume you mean besides telling them to kiss my ass?” Kerrik just gave him a flat look and Iain chuckled. “I am still learning the political situation and stayed out of it, but Ava invited them to step outside where the herds were assembled and ask the moon horses if we were coercing them in any way. Her tone suggested they should be kissing her ass too. And Dancer’s tone with them was about as acerbic as I’ve ever heard from a sentient equine. She pretty much started with ‘how dare you’ and it quickly went downhill from there. She’s as fiery a personality as Ava is. They’re well suited for each other.”
“What did you do?”
“After Dancer got finished chewing them out, I offered the representatives some wine and let them bitch until they got it out of their system. Then they left.”
“I’m sorry I missed that,” Kerrik said with a laugh. “Are you ready to show me what you know about gate magic?”
“Can you move an established gate without closing and reopening it,” Iain asked curiously.
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Which end, source or destination?”
“They’re the same thing, depending on where you stand,” Iain pointed out.
Kerrik smiled. “I just wanted to see if you understood that. Gates can’t be moved with formal magic, at least not that I’ve seen. As for using truewizardry, it’s difficult. By its very nature, a gate is fixed in place and in time. Moving one without it coming apart is pretty hard to do. It’s much easier to close and reopen it somewhere else on either end.”
“That probably explains why I’m having a hard time reproducing my one success,” Iain said.
“Your new instructor could probably explain the theory behind it,” Kerrik replied. “Now you have to get her to decide its important enough to teach and not so important that you need to figure it out on your own or so trivial she won’t bother with it at all.” He smiled when Iain grimaced. “Now, in today’s lesson, where are the source and terminus going to be?”
“The source will be around here somewhere,” Iain was examining their surroundings as he spoke, “and the destination will be inside the new forest about five klicks from Caintigern’s house. Between the forest’s magic and Ninhursag’s efforts at reforestation, the area is old growth oaks and the incidentals that go with them. It’s also as feral free as we could make it.”
“And the destination time,” Kerrik prompted.
“It’ll be about sixteen hours after we left. That’ll put local time at 0600, close to the time here, and give the moon horses the whole day to begin acclimating. There’re some fields about two kilometers away and Ninhursag should have prepositioned alfalfa and oats in the field for the moon horses. We weren’t expecting this many of them, but I don’t doubt that she went as overboard as she usually does when it involves growing crops of any sort.”
Kerrik laughed. “How many centuries of not growing things does she have to make up for?”
Iain shrugged. “All of them, apparently. I’m not complaining, mind.”
“It kind of sounds like you are.”
Iain just looked evenly at him. “Is there anything special you want for this portal?”
Kerrik grinned. “Can you have it play something martial while it’s open?”
Iain just shook his head slowly before returning the grin. “That would annoy Ava. She likes happy or peaceful music, just like her goddess. She is a priestess, after all.”
Kerrik blinked. “She wasn’t a priestess when I met her in the future.”
“She was and has been since she was about sixty. She’d just lost heart when Eilistraee did and that contributed to the depression and anger she was going through when you met her in the future that won’t be now.”
The kami’s ears went flat. “My sister worships a drow goddess?”
“There aren’t any drow yet,” Iain noted casually. “She’s worshipped by lots of elves, but especially by the dark elves.”
“How do you feel about your betrothed worshipping Eilistraee?”
“If it makes her happy, cool. I only hope that her goddess doesn’t make an appearance at the ranch. Ava has already heard about Mielikki and about the two Danu coming to visit, so she’s been trying to get her goddess to drop by too by adding that request into her prayers. Dancer is a priestess of the Lady Dancer too. It’s who she’s taken her name from.” He frowned. “Actually, I don’t really care if she drops by. As long as she doesn’t bring her mother.”
“Aren’t you getting a little blasé about goddesses dropping by,” Kerrik noted.
“It’s not that. If she comes by I can’t stop her and, according to what I know, she’s been nothing but polite to people who are polite to her. That’s really all I ask of guests.” He looked at Kerrik. “I’ll warn you if she shows up so you won’t come by.”
Kerrik raised an eyebrow. “And that’s why?”
“I won’t know at what point in her life she’ll be at when she might visit so it’s only prudent. If she’s old enough, she might just remember how many drow cities you’ve depopulated and you by name. She does want to rescue all of them, which is why she will talk to every drow at least once during his or her life.”
Kerrik’s smile was as cold as liquid helium. “Most of the drow I encountered would be unable to tell her what I look like, much less who I am.” The smile warmed as Kerrik put the mask back in place. “But you are right. Still it’s unlikely she’ll come by One.”
Iain snorted. “What in my life that has happened in the last several years would be called likely by anyone, starting with my kidnapping by imaginary beings from Sanctuary?”
“Considering the life I lead,” Kerrik said, “yours is pretty normal.” He flashed a grin. “Just like the life I lead has become normal to me.”
“I’m not sure if you’re being helpful,” Iain said. “Do you know if you’re being helpful?”
“I think the question, worded the way it is, answers itself,” Kerrik said with another grin.
“Fuck you very much for your help.”
Kerrik burst out laughing. “I suppose you could become a girl and you’d be warmer than that vampire when she was trying to convince me that I didn’t want to give her over to the Big C. She tried to be very convincing that I wanted to keep her but she hadn’t fed recently.”
Iain sighed. “I am not going to say anything about necrophilia lest those words come back to haunt me. As for me becoming female for you, no.”
Kerrik chuckled. “Yeah, no. Open the gate so you can go home.”
“Give me a minute.” Iain went back to the wagon and looked up at Kasserine, who had an odd look on her face. “I’ll be opening the gate here.” She nodded and beckoned him closer. “What is it?”
Kasserine leaned down, glancing up once at where Kerrik stood. “Did my son just tell you that he had sex with a vampire,” she whispered.
You heard that, Iain asked with his twee. Kerrik can’t hear this.
My twee said it would be improving my sight and hearing first, Kasserine replied through hers. Did I hear him say he had sex with a vampire that Corellon sent him to catch?
You heard what he said correctly and, yes, he did insinuate that he had sex with her. He did not come out and say that’s what happened, but he does that since he cannot lie.
Kasserine gave her son an appalled glance that he missed since he was busy looking at the herd of moon horses before returning her attention to Iain. Why would he do that?
You would have to ask him that since he didn’t explain his reasoning to me. Would you like me to speculate?
He was horny and she offered. Kasserine looked shocked and Iain gave a slight shrug. He is in an adult and free to choose who he lays with. Oh, while I am almost certain that this one was fairly typical for what you think a vampire is and is like, being undead and an evil monster, there are creatures called Vampires where we are going, although they pokegirls and are not dead. One of Shikarou’s women is a Vampire and Morwen, a member of Kerrik’s harem, is a Vampire too and a rather nice young lady who chose to become a Vampire to avoid becoming a Bunnygirl.
Kasserine turned inquisitive eyes on Iain. Do you have any Vampires in your family?
Ganieda was blended with one, but the answer to your question is no, there are no Vampires in the inner harem or clan, I like my blood exactly where it is. Iain turned away. Now I need to open the gate that will take us to my home and your new home and family.
Kasserine kept talking to him while he began searching for a level place for the gate. Why are you concerned that Araushnee or Eilistraee might come to our home?
I’ll explain when we’re home and she can’t hear anything that might be said out loud. Now I need to concentrate, please. I’ll let you know when I’m done so you can talk to me again.
I like talking to you, she said. Thank you.
I like talking to you too, Iain replied. He examined the ground for a few minutes before looking up and calling to Kerrik. “I’ll open the portal here.”
Kerrik loped over. “Why here?”
“There’s level ground for a dozen meters so the wagon’s run to the portal will be smooth,” Iain replied. It’ll also help if the horses don’t have to stumble their way through the portal. If I put the exit in the right place it’ll open out onto another flat area in the woods that leads to a road for the wagon that heads for one of our satellite stations on the west side of the reservoir. We’ve been using it for storing some of April’s restoration attempts of trucks. It’s on the edge of the forest and a good place to temporarily house this cavalcade.”
“Why open it so far out of the way?”
“Ninhursag is going to have Mielikki look over everything coming through. She can spot gods and whatnot trying to sneak through and we have the equipment to engage them on site to hopefully at least slow them down somewhat while I try to convince you to get involved. That way they don’t have to come through to this side of the gate to do the scans or trash our house while we break contact.”
Kerrik frowned and Iain felt the pulse of magic sweep through him as it expanded out from his teacher. “There’s nothing unusual here. I’m familiar enough with the deities and their agents here that they can’t hide from me completely. They might mask their presence, but I’d sense the mask if not them.”
“I need to learn to do that scan.” Iain focused his will and light flared as the portal opened in front of him and widened out until it was a hemisphere four meters high and eight meters wide.
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “You put the lower half of the gate in the ground?”
“Doing it this way makes it easier for the horses and the wagon to use,” Iain said. “Eirian.”
Silver smoke poured from his left arm and formed into the Dragoness. “My lord, I go.” She raced through the gate.
“Smart,” Kerrik said.
“I figure it wouldn’t be prudent to accidentally murder your mother and sister along with a couple of hundred moon horses by opening a gate to the wrong place. There’s a force field around the gate to keep anyone from entering or exiting now that Eirian has gone through. Only she can pass through it.”
The silver Dragoness trotted out of the gate and stopped. “My lord,” she said, “your placement was perfect and Ninhursag awaits you. Liadan, Emerald, Beryl, Skye and Rhea, you are with me.” Smoke poured from Iain’s arms and legs to form the named members of his undead harem. “We go, my lord.” They vanished.
“Where are they,” Kerrik frowned as he looked around.
“They’re nearby and watching to prevent anything from trying to sneak through after we go. Their orders are to kill anything trying and then they’ll shadow walk back to their base.”
“Where are they living on Earth? I know it’s not where the liches lived since that area is open for the Pendragons to explore.”
“Need to know, Kerrik.” Iain glanced at him. “The force field is down. Would you like to let Kasserine know so she can start through?”
“I heard the start of her conversation with you,” Kerrik said. “Is she going to dress me down for fucking a vampire?”
“I don’t know. I did point out that you’re an adult.”
“We weren’t in earshot of her.”
“Twee improvements. The magical ones will be later.”
“Shit.” Kerrik turned and jogged back to the wagon. “You can go through.”
Kasserine nodded. “Are you coming with us?”
“No. I’ve got to finish some errands that I was given.”
“Iain told us who visited that day. Be careful.”
“I will. I should be back in a few days.” He eyed her for a second. “Anything else?”
Kasserine shook her head. “My betrothed is right, and you are an adult and free to make your own decisions. I was never really your mother and I have no right to a say in your life. I regret that.”
“Looking back,” Kerrik said. “I think you did the best you could considering the situation. The queen wasn’t happy with you and I,” he shrugged, “I reminded you of what had happened, and you had your orders on how to deal with me. It’s a wonder the queen didn’t order me exposed.”
“It was one of the few commands she gave that I refused completely,” Kasserine said quietly. “Regardless of how you were conceived, you were my child and I was not going to just let you die. Then the priest of Corellon interceded and gave her orders to turn you into a weapon of the Crown.”
Kerrik smiled thinly. “He’s already mentioned that my life was saved by him. Now it makes a lot more sense.”
“What do you know about your sire?”
“What you told me, which as we both know isn’t much,” Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Why?”
“Iain knows more.” She frowned when Kerrik raised an eyebrow. “He only said that your life is safe because some power thinks you’re dead and that if it discovered you were alive we’d all be in danger.”
Kerrik looked back at Iain. “Really? I think I’m going to have to have a long talk with him about that.”
“Remember that he is going to be Ava’s and my husband,” Kasserine said warningly.
“Crap.” He shook his head. “I’ll figure something out. Now go and get to your new home.”
“Will I like it there?”
He eyed her. “You’re only going for Ava?”
“I was in the beginning, but Iain won’t let me refuse to marry him and I have accepted that.”
“Good.” He grinned when she frowned at him. “This is going to be something new for you. His place is alive in ways that court never was. It is going to take both of you some adjustment, but I believe that you will come to love being there, even with all of the other women with demands on Iain’s time.”
“I will not need or even want as much of his time as you seem to think I will.”
Kerrik laughed. “I will ask you to repeat that in a decade and be telling me the truth. I hope you won’t be able to.”
“What makes you think something like that?”
“I told you about Nightraven and how she held me against my will for a thousand years while teaching me. It’s how she has taught every student she has had.”
“I remember what little you would tell me.”
“She’s the one he’s going to go to for lessons after I release him so I can teach you and Ava. She lets him leave. She hasn’t changed. I went and visited her to see if she had. But for him, she is different. I don’t know why, I can’t ask her and he says I don’t want to know. I believe him.” His ears flicked. “But I still want to know.”
“What does that mean for me?”
Kerrik shrugged. “It means absolutely nothing until it doesn’t. But I have seen him and the women he loves. They are happy in the ways that we once envied among the people we met on our travels outside of court. I have experienced that happiness with my own family and it was and sometimes still is scary and wonderful all at once. I hope you can find it with Iain and his family and I believe that he may be the only one you could find love with.” He glanced back at Iain. “But even of you don’t ever love him or even if it takes a very long time because of the things that have happened to you, I think you can be happy in his family. His women and his children will accept you completely and,” he grinned. “You’re in for quite the shock.”
“You seem very pleased at my future discomfiture.”
She shook her head. “The horses are starting through.” She glanced at Kerrik again. “Will I ever meet your women and children?”
“Let’s take this one step at a time, but I believe so. But I think I’ll wait until you’re free from your first set of children with Iain before we worry about that.”
She blinked. “My first set of children? I have not been chaste these years, Kerrik, and yet I have only had you and Ava.”
“I control my fertility,” Kerrik said. “My magic won’t let me be fertile, so I can’t get a woman pregnant unless she wants to be pregnant by me and I want to get her pregnant. You didn’t really want to be pregnant by any of the men you’ve been attacked by or worked out arrangements with and I think you unconsciously kept it from happening in most cases.”
“You think I will want to become pregnant with Iain’s children?”
“I hope you do. I think Iain could get most women pregnant by walking past them.” He grinned. “Something that until recently had only been said about me.”
“Iain is motioning to us,” Stalker said from where he stood in the team.
“Can you come and visit me at Iain’s home,” Kasserine asked her son.
“I can and I will,” Kerrik replied. “And it’s going to be your home. Now go and meet everyone.”
She nodded. “I will see what this new place is like.” She lifted the reins and shook them lightly as Kerrik vanished. “Let’s go.”
Iain stepped through the portal, turned to face it and concentrated so he could drain it of energy, closing the gate in seconds. “You will teach me that trick, right,” Dominique said from behind him.
“We’ll see if you can learn a formal version of it,” he replied as he turned around. He could see that the wagon had stopped and Kasserine had dismounted to join her already dismounted daughter where Ava was talking to Ninhursag. He headed towards them in case there was a problem. “Are you my guard today?”
“No,” the Archmage replied as Heather appeared beside her. “She is. We’re sticking with a minimal number of people here, mostly Elves and their evolutions until we can get your new women settled in a little. I’m here in case there’s trouble with the gate.” She glanced at him. “Nicely done.”
“Thank you. Let’s head over and see if Ninhursag needs any help.” As he got closer he watched his maharani give a surprised Ava a kiss on the lips and then repeat the process with Kasserine.
Ava looked up at the much taller Elfqueen. “I don’t want to give insult, but I am not familiar with your customs. What does that kiss mean?” She spoke elven, but it was the only language she knew.
“That’s one of your customs,” Ninhursag replied with a smile in the same language. Iain had downloaded the language and he knew she’d had the entire clan learn it via the teaching machines. “I am welcoming you.”
“That would be an exchange of cheek kisses,” Kasserine said.
Ninhursag shook her head. “You are not our guests. You are betrothed to my husband and that makes you family and us sisters. Us being sisters because of Iain is our custom too, and it means you are sisters to all of us in the inner harem.”
Ava smiled uncertainly back at Ninhursag. “I have never had family besides my mother. I do not know what I should say or do.”
“We don’t have many rules about family,” Ninhursag said soothingly. “I want you to be Ava and not turn into me or anyone else in the family. So that means you do and say what Ava would do and say and Kasserine should be herself too. I am learning that the society you come from can be free and open, but there’s an underlying custom of obedience to the authorities, especially at the level Kasserine grew up in and taught you to respect. It’s fortunate that we have something very similar. But I want you to know just how happy we are that you’ve joined us and I’m going to take you on a quick tour of the family and introduce you to everyone we run across while meeting with the command staff and our other leaders. While that’s going on, your things will be put in your rooms in our house.”
“Are you happy we are here because Kerrik is no longer a threat to your clan’s existence,” Kasserine asked.
Ninhursag chuckled. “While I appreciate the fact that now Kerrik won’t decide to arbitrarily kill your betrothed, I’m pleased you joined us because now we are stronger than we were yesterday.” She glanced at Iain. “I also want to be able to hopefully get your advice.”
Kasserine looked surprised. “On what subject?”
“You were trained to be the ruler of your people if anything happened to the heir,” Ninhursag said. “You have experience ruling that I don’t and if I don’t do an exemplary job leading the clan, Iain will fire me and find someone more suited to the job. I don’t want to give my position up and anything you can teach me to help me be a better leader would be welcomed.”
Ava looked at Iain. “You would fire your wife?”
“It hasn’t been an issue,” he replied defensively.
“That means you would.”
“Iain will do what is best for the clan and its people, regardless of what it costs him personally or what it costs the people around him,” Kasserine said, placing a hand on Ava’s arm. “My sister refused to do that while she was queen, but if I had become the queen, I would have done the same as Iain is doing. I would have also welcomed any who could help me become a better ruler for my people. We will help Ninhursag ensure her position is assured.”
“We certainly will,” Ava said hotly. She pulled Ninhursag down and kissed her firmly on the lips. “I am glad to meet my new sister and I’ll be glad to help you, as soon as we get Dancer and the moon horses taken care of.”
“Then let’s get them taken care of now. We have a very nice place where they can pasture for the day and then I’ve made arrangements for some of the unicorns to take the herd mares on a quick tour of the best places to feed and water.”
“I’ve never met a unicorn,” Ava said eagerly.
“You will meet Golden Cloud later today and the rest of the herd soon,” Ninhursag said. “Now please introduce me to Dancer.” She nodded to Iain. “I’ll touch base with you later.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.”
She led the others away, giving him a quick glance. I didn’t have time to warn you that I intended to separate them from you and to use you to weld them to us. Theodora suggested the stratagem a few hours ago and it was after Allison had already returned from her trip.
Masterfully done, my love, was Iain’s reply. He sent to her, Ava and Kasserine. I have a quick meeting and I’ll catch up in a few minutes. He looked at Dominique and Heather. “What was my schedule for today?”
“You have formal magic class in an hour with Kasumi as your instructor,” Heather said. “After that you get handed over to April and Sofia, who have cleared their schedule to give you induction training.” She frowned. “Why?”
Dominique grinned. “How long have you been gone, Iain?”
“About a month. I intended to spend my first day back keeping Ava and Kasserine company. Tell Kasumi I’m canceling and we’ll have to reschedule. April too, but she should have already been warned.”
Dominique’s eyes unfocused. “And April already knew about the changes.” Iain shrugged, and Dominique laughed. “You are so doomed. She’s not going to go easy on you after being put off. So how out of shape are they going to find you?”
“That’s a good question,” Iain replied. “Kasserine has been giving me physical conditioning so she could start training me in the elven styles of martial arts. It didn’t seem as strenuous as April’s workouts, but I pushed hard to try and compensate.”
Dominique poked him in the stomach. “Seems firm enough.”
“Please tell me you got laid while you were gone,” Heather said. “Otherwise I’m going to have to call for help in dealing with you.” She glanced at the Archmage. “I’d ask Dominique but she doesn’t share.”
“I would think I should be the one to help him,” Dominique said. “You’re guarding him now, not fucking him. I, on the other hand, am free to fuck him until he can’t walk.”
“If it’s been a month, don’t you mean it’ll be until you can’t walk,” Heather asked with a grin. “And then I’ll have to call for Siobhan to haul you to medical.”
“It’s only been a week,” Iain growled.
“Oh,” Heather looked thoughtful for a second. “That means the sperm hasn’t quite built up to a lethal pressure in your balls. Dominique might be able to handle it then.”
The Archmage flared instantly. “Might?”
“I’m not spending that long away from Ava and Kasserine,” Iain said. “How did Miriam handle my absence?”
“Not well,” Heather gave Dominique a quick glance. “But Lucifer and Ninhursag talked this morning and Lucifer wants you to wait until this afternoon to see the kids. You are still scheduled for helping with the children after lunch and lasting until dinner.”
“That’ll give Kasserine and Ava a chance to meet them too.” Iain frowned. Why am I waiting to see my girls, he said to Lucifer through their bond.
They will have to get used to your absences, Lucifer replied, and this is as good a time as any to start the process since you have returned unharmed and they will be able to see that you didn’t die on them. Last night was unpleasant, but this is necessary for their emotional growth and I don’t want you to go out of your way to see either of them earlier than you normally would since you missed breakfast and the girls will all be at the Barton House for lunch. Do you disagree with my assessment?
I missed them too, along with everyone else but we agreed to do this when the opportunity arose.
I am glad you were only gone overnight. They aren’t ready for more than that. How long was it for you?
I was gone for a month.
So it has been a little over a week since you saw Allison. He could feel her amusement. Will you survive to tonight or have your other women already started vying for your attentions?
She laughed across their bond. Then I will see you this afternoon, my love.
I love you too. Iain shook his head. “I’m not going to spend much of the day away from Ava and Kasserine and I am not going to have my return start with a quickie. That means I’ll probably have to wait until bedtime.”
Dominique and Heather exchanged a look. “Who are you supposed to be with tonight?”
“This is one of the days where I don’t get to make that decision. If you want to see the schedule you need to ask Ninhursag.”
Dominique took his hand. “So we’re off to catch up with Ava and Kasserine.”
Iain shook his head. “Not quite. I want to run by Kerrik’s and tell Raven he won’t be returning for two more days before she discovers I’m back and he’s not. I’m not interested in her frantically yelling at me about something that I can’t control.”
Dominique raised her eyebrows. “You really think she’s not going to yell at you? I think your optimism is more than a bit misplaced. Kerrik didn’t tell her he was disappearing when he took you away and she’s been even more frantic than Miriam was about you.”
“I will tell her face to face because if I don’t, she’ll teleport here, and I’ll get to tell her twice, and Kasserine and Ava don’t need to meet one of Kerrik’s sexpot murderesses while she’s having a panic attack from separation anxiety,” Iain said. “She’s not silly enough to attack me and she’ll appreciate me not wimping out and trying to send it to her by twee.”
“Why didn’t he come back with you,” Heather asked.
“He had some things to finish up.”
“Raven will want to know more than that.”
“Tough. I don’t know more than that and she’s free to beat Kerrik about the head and shoulders when he comes back.” He gripped Dominique’s hand tightly. “Now please take me there and Heather follow so we can get this done and get back before Ava and Kasserine start worrying that I’m avoiding them.”
Dominique nodded. “Heather?”
“I’ll be right behind you. If Raven lays a hand on him, I’ll cover him while you beat her ass.”
“Good,” Dominique and Iain vanished, followed a second later by Heather.
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