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Iain watched Kasserine and Ava as they concentrated on their exercise. He could feel energy accumulating around each of them but there was no visible effect, so he gave a mental shrug and turned away to where Kerrik was observing. “Do you have a moment for some questions,” he asked quietly, “or are you needed here to keep an eye on what they’re doing?”
“You don’t know what they’re working on,” Kerrik eyed him curiously before glancing at Ganieda where she stood silent sentry.
“It could be one of several different things or even something I’m not familiar with at all.”
Kerrik nodded. “Speculate.”
Iain looked at Kasserine and Ava again. Something about what they were doing was very familiar and he grinned when he realized what it was. “Light balls?”
“Very good. They’re working on creating their first ones. Ava said something earlier about roping you in to help them practice at home.”
Iain chuckled. “Kasserine could rope me. Ava will have to wait until she’s an adult. But I was approached about giving them some help with the homework you’ll be assigning, and I said we’d schedule it so I couldn’t be shanghaied while they wanted my help. Is that going to be a problem?”
“Protective, aren’t you?”:
“While we’re not married yet, we are betrothed and they are both Greys, so yes.” Iain glanced at them again. “But if you need them to do something without help from me, I can consider that too when they ask me for help. If I know.”
“When and if that becomes an issue, I’ll make sure you know about it before they can try to get your help.” Kerrik’s ears flicked. “What are your questions?”
Iain held out his hand and a circle of energy a meter in diameter appeared. “Do you use this gate format?”
Kerrik looked it over. It wasn’t activated so there was no portal, but the outer edge could be read to determine what the coordinates were as well as other information, if the reader knew how the creator encoded his gates. Kerrik recognized this one. “This is Magdalene’s.” He gave Iain a curious glance.
“She was using it when showing Dominique how to adjust the portal spell to bring us here. I saw it at that time.”
“Magdalene learned most of it from her father and later added some concepts from me,” Kerrik said. “My format is similar to that but every wizard’s is a little different. I’m not sure if it’s different enough to be unique since we all have to have certain basic elements and some of the other things that get added are not really essential for planar travel.” He glanced at where Kasserine and Ava were still working. “Did you adopt this format?”
“No.” The circle changed around its periphery. “This is what I’m using.”
Kerrik’s eyebrows rose and his ears canted sideways for a second. “If I’m reading this correctly, the X, Y, Z, D and T coordinates are incredibly detailed. Why is it so complicated?”
“I’ve recently developed this and it’s this way because of the concepts having to do with my questions. If my theory is wrong, I’ll restructure it, but if it is correct I may well need it to be this complex.” He raised an eyebrow at what he could see with his perception behind him. “Staring at us isn’t doing your lessons, Ava.” He turned to look at her. “Nor is it helping you, Kasserine.”
“That looks a lot more interesting than what we’re doing, Iain.” Ava got up and moved to stand next to him. “Was this what you meant when you said you can do things that we can’t and that it would frustrate us?”
Kerrik chuckled and motioned Kasserine to join them as Iain shook his head. “This is something that you can’t do, at least not yet. You’ll learn how to open dimensional portals and how to keep people from opening them around you even if you don’t go traveling.” He smiled. “But, yes, you would eventually get frustrated at some of the things I can do that you haven’t quite mastered or even started studying.”
Kasserine smiled at Iain. “I am interested in what my betrothed is doing,” she said simply as she took his hand. “Unless Kerrik insists we return to our lessons, I would like to see what you are trying to accomplish, even if I cannot yet do what you can.”
Are you aware that they use you and what you can do to motivate each other to strive harder? Kerrik’s voice sounded inside Iain’s mind. You have apparently made quite the impression on them. Unless this might harm them, I see no reason to forbid them from observing.
Right now it’s all theoretical, Iain replied. “Well, since Kerrik isn’t telling you to get back to your mindless drudgery of becoming some of the most powerful people on the planet, I guess you can stay.”
“As you’ve already noted that this is something that they’ll be able do to one day,” Kerrik said amusedly as Ava grinned at Iain, “why don’t you explain to them what they’re looking at and what it means?”
“Please,” Kasserine added.
“I’ll be glad to,” Iain said to Kasserine. “This is the coordinate set for a portal between two locations. Whether it’s used to go from one place to another within the same dimension or to another place within another dimension or universe, this is what any wizard will use, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing since some formal magic users claim that an intra dimensional portal is different from an interdimensional portal. Fundamentally, they’re incorrect. It’s just that with an intra dimensional portal you don’t change the d axis coordinates at all and so formal mages don’t bother with even listing it when casting their spell. It’s sloppy magic and Kerrik and I will both make you work out all the details of a portal, even if it doesn’t go more than a few meters. If you don’t control all aspects of magic, then the aspect you ignore can rise up to grab you by the throat.”
He reached out with his free hand and traced some markings around the outer rim. “Here you will find the information on where the portal originated from and,” he traced some other marking, “here is the information on where it goes. Now you may not actually see this since most mages hide this information when they cast the spell in order to keep others from knowing where the portal goes so they can’t be followed. Some who design their own gate spell aren’t even aware that these aren’t just pretty decorations, but most of them are paranoid enough to cover them anyway. There are ways to read the energy of a portal to discern the truth about its destination, but that’s pretty complicated and a topic for another discussion.”
“Can you do it,” Ava asked.
“I can, but it takes a while because I’m still not very good at it.” He smiled at both women. “Every portal’s destination can be defined by five coordinates. Even a random portal is this way, it’s just that the caster isn’t sure about where the destination is. He or she could later use the same coordinates and expect to have it end up at the same location and time as the first one.”
He tugged his hand free, unclipped his water canteen and took a quick drink. Kasserine reclaimed his hand after he was done. Since accepting his refusal to release her from their betrothal, she’d started initiating physical contact between then when he was around. Iain wasn’t going to discourage her, but he wasn’t going to let it keep him from accomplishing something either. “The coordinates are the same for each mage, but what they call them and what they use to represent them varies from individual to individual or group to group. A lot of mages use and teach what they learned from their teachers, which is why some groups all use the same system. I define the coordinates with letters from physics and geometry, which are schools of math that I learned while I was growing up. For me, the coordinates are d, t, x, y, and z. The d coordinate defines which universe or dimension the gate is opening to. The t coordinate is the temporal adjustment or discrete time that’s selected, while the x, y and z coordinates define the physical location of the exit within the destination universe. Technically there is a second set of all five coordinates, which I call d2, t2, x2, y2 and z2 which define where the gate originates from. These become important only if you intend to return to where you came from, but a smart wizard will calculate all ten coordinates before leaving her lab.”
“You will learn to calculate all ten coordinates during my lessons,” Kerrik said. “It’s safer in the long run. I’ve also learned that if you find that the numbers for the coordinates you already know turn out to be correct from your math, it suggests you will be accurate with your destination numbers too. That’s not always true, but it is a helpful way to double check your math.”
“You can add other things to a portal, like a forcefield on the exit side and some other things,” Iain continued. “However, each item you add has a power cost and they can escalate quickly. They can also call attention to the gate, which means someone or something might be waiting for you when you exit because of something you added. As with many things, it’s a tradeoff. I like not being detected and so I tend to use minimalist gate designs and then, if I have time, peek through with some equipment to see what’s waiting for me before I cross over.” He looked at Kerrik. “Did I miss anything?”
“Ah, right.” Iain looked at the women. “One of the things to remember is that time passes at different rates in every universe compared to other universes. This is important when calculating the passage of time between universes you visit. It isn’t important when you’re in a universe because the speed of the passage of time you experience is always the same. While some don’t bother worrying about it, with an understanding of the time differential between two places, you can carefully adjust the t coordinate to specify a specific arrival time at a location, which can be very useful.”
“Is that how you rescued Gormlaith,” Kasserine asked.
“That is how you could rescue someone like her,” Iain replied. “I did what I normally do and cheated. Using Ygerna’s memories, I shadow walked to that time and place. Once there, Dominique read the coordinates locally so we could bring the clan to that exact point in space and time to rescue Gormlaith and recruit Arianrhod and the rest of the goblins. Shadow walking allowed me to avoid mistakes that could cause us to undershoot the time we wanted and have to wait, if it wasn’t a mistake by centuries, or overshoot the time and not effect Gormlaith’s rescue at all.” He smiled. “I shadow walked using one of Kerrik’s memories so I could meet both of you.”
“Can I learn how to shadow walk,” Ava asked eagerly.
“Right now I am not sure how I shadow walk,” Iain said. “When I figure that out, we can revisit that discussion.”
“There are some things for each of us that seem to be difficult for others to do,” Kerrik said. “I have shadow walked with Iain a few times and everything I’ve learned about dimensional traveling says that doing what he does is impossible to do and having it not be completely random is impossible to control. The problem is that if I know something is impossible then it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be able to learn to do it, even if I know that someone, like your Iain here, can do it. If my mind is sure something can’t be done, I may never be able to do it, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it’s possible. That is one of the few true limitations of our magic. We shape our magic, and it in turn shapes us, which means we can imprison ourselves inside limitations that don’t exist for someone else.”
“Does that mean that because Ava and I don’t know this is impossible means we might someday be able to do it if we wish?”
Kerrik smiled. “Mother, if you don’t know something is impossible, then for you, as a truewizard, it becomes possible.”
Kasserine regarded Iain solemnly. “This is so different from what I learned from my instructors in,” she paused, “formal magic.”
“It’s one of the reasons I struggle sometimes with formal magic,” Iain replied. “I can wing a spell with truewizard magic that it would take weeks or maybe even years of study to master using formal magic. But with formal magic there is usually a smaller chance of something unanticipated and unwanted happening, so once again there’s a tradeoff. I study both because I learn things from each that I can apply to the other. Structure from formal magic that I can use to try and mitigate unwanted effects from a truewizard spell and creativity from truewizard spells that I can try to apply in my research into formal spells. I study priest magic for the same reason. The more you learn, the more you know and the more you can do.”
Kerrik nodded. “As an example, in my travels and studies I have come across metals that far surpass the best mithril and adamantine that the dwarven or elven smiths can make on our world. I learned how to make them and later how to add enchantments to them and they can give me a distinct advantage in a fight if I need to use weapons fashioned from these materials.” He looked at Iain. “You had some questions?”
Iain smiled. “I have some ideas that I want to see if you can poke holes in. It regards the possibility to use intra dimensional travel to move safely through time.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Safely? Give me your theory.”
“Using technology, it is possible to map the movement of the earth through the solar system, the solar system through the galaxy and the galaxy through the universe. I was thinking about mapping the movement of the sun through time and using t, x, y and z to open a gate within the vicinity of the sun, still in space, at a specific time far in the past.” He smiled. “And by far in the past, I am thinking about millions of years. By using space instead of coming out on the surface of the Earth, I can avoid a myriad of issues, such as objects like new mountains being where I want to open a gate or killing the proto mammal that is the direct ancestor of all of humanity by shooting it when it tries to bite me.”
Ava frowned. “Why?”
“Right now this isn’t anything I have a need for,” Iain said. “Right now it’s just something to dream about using truewizard magic to do.”
Kerrik was watching Ganieda. “Is this why you picked her as your guard today?”
The Snugglebunny Splice just smiled as Iain chuckled. “She is smart enough to understand that this is all theoretical and that it doesn’t mean I’m going to go running off to try and make this happen after we get done talking.”
“Iain has asked me to watch and listen and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Ganieda said quietly.
Kerrik’s ears flicked as he turned his attention back to Iain. “This would also allow travel into the future.”
“It would,” Iain admitted. “I don’t really see a reason for that either, but it’s still something that would be cool to know.”
Kerrik’s teeth showed in his smile. “No, it would be something cool to prove. Now I understand why your t, x, y and z coordinate systems are so complex. You’re considering testing.”
“No, right now it’s still theoretical, but using that much coordinate detail now will put me in the habit of using it all the time, which will make my travel more precise. And we both know that with extreme precision you can then adjust for extreme accuracy.”
“Ganieda,” Kasserine asked, “what do you think of this?”
“Iain’s right that his idea is still theoretical and would probably be very difficult even if it proves practicable. But he’s also right about the precision side of things and so Dominique and I are both learning to use the same detail in our gate magic.”
Ava looked surprised. “I didn’t know you can open gates.”
“It’s Dominique’s job,” Ganieda said. “I am her backup in case there’s a problem. You are going to find that for the jobs you only see one person doing, there is always someone else who also trains for it, just in case. You’ll also find, as soon as you finish your induction training, that we heavily cross train. As mages, you and your mother may find yourselves becoming my backup. I can assure you that you’ll stay busy.”
Kerrik raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a chain of succession for the Grey?”
“Four people so far,” Iain said. “We’re setting the tradition that Silver uses of choosing the best qualified instead of some arbitrary succession plan that could end up with someone who would lead Grey to ruin.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked slowly. “Good. As for your idea, you’ll need a lot of data tracking the movement of, say, Sol, before you could do anything like this.”
“What about the movement your satellite tracked from when you dropped it off way in this Earth’s past or the one I left on Three when we rescued Gormlaith? We downloaded the data before we returned here.”
Kerrik sounded lost in thought. “That will help, but it really depends on how accurate that tracking data is and how far back in time you’d attempt to go. It also, of course, depends on what changes in galactic movement could be caused by interactions with other galaxies or even if they can interact with other close universes as they intermesh.” His eyes refocused on Iain. “I wouldn’t try to go back to the Paleozoic or Mesozoic on your first try.”
“I’ll try to prove the theory first,” Iain said. “That and tracking the solar system over geologic time should take a while, what with all of the other projects we’re tackling.”
Kerrik smiled. “True.” He turned to Kasserine and Ava. “Breaktime is over, students. I expect to see at least a glimmer of light from each of you before you leave for the day.”
Iain took Ganieda’s hand. “Home.”
“You’re staring at her ass.” Her low voice was waspish with irritation.
Shikarou managed not to chuckle and looked at the woman next to him, considering his words carefully. “While it isn’t your ass, Poppet, it is very nice and she obviously has it on display in those pants.” He glanced past her at Kozakura, but his daughter was keeping her head bent and her eyes on the floor like she was supposed to be doing.
Poppet looked into his eyes. “Tell me my ass is better.”
“I love you, Poppet. I know your ass is incredible.” She just gave him a satisfied smile and leaned slightly against him.
In the kitchen, Marguerite stopped and watched Iain setting up the tea service on the trolley. “Did you ask me to help with this because you want me around to keep Poppet from influencing you?”
He glanced up at her as he filled the teapot with boiling water. “You were next on the service schedule. The fact that if I look sideways at Poppet, that single act will get me ostracized by you had nothing to do with it. I suspect it’s because Sofia knew about the appointment that Shikarou and Poppet made for this visit and she arranged for you to be here with me.”
Marguerite chuckled. “You can look at her all you want as long as, at the same time, you’re considering just how superior I am to her.” Her smile warmed when he glanced up again. “No, I’m not insecure in my place here. I just like teasing you.”
“And I like your teasing.” He pushed the trolley towards her. “Please don’t spit in Poppet’s cup.”
Marguerite snickered. “She’s not worthy of my saliva. Besides, I know she’s not the individual who I detest, she’s just a copy who is almost exactly like her.” She glanced back the doorway to the waiting area. “And if her husband stares at my ass any harder, my leggings might melt.”
“You wore that outfit to put your ass on display, but if they start to melt, come find me.” He headed for the door leading deeper into the house. “I’ll go see what’s keeping Kasumi.”
Marguerite chuckled and pushed the trolley towards the door. Shikarou and Poppet looked up when she entered and she gave them an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry we can’t have this meeting in the garden like we planned, but the downpour that nature so annoyingly delivered earlier this morning forced us to change the location to here.” She busied herself making tea. “I believe you like yours black and Poppet likes hers with three lumps. What do you prefer, Kozakura?”
Kozakura didn’t move but Shikarou spoke. “She can’t have anything to eat or drink until Iain arrives.”
Marguerite kept her face carefully still. “Well, Iain should be here in a few minutes. What will she have then?”
Shikarou looked past Poppet at his daughter. “Answer her.”
“Green tea, plain, please, if you have it,” Kozakura’s voice was barely audible to anyone without enhanced hearing.
“We do,” Marguerite prepared her a cup after giving Shikarou and Poppet theirs. Iain, do you know what’s going on with Kozakura? Shikarou said she can’t have anything to eat or drink until you get here and she didn’t speak until Shikarou ordered her to.
She sensed his surprise. No clue, but since things are sorted out back here I’ll be right there.
Iain appeared only a moment later. “Good morning,” he began only to break off short when Kozakura shot to her feet. She ran to him, threw herself to the ground on her knees and bowed to put her forehead on the floor. He recognized the position, it was called dogeza and was only done for a few very specific reasons. “Kozakura?”
“Please forgive me, Iain-sama,” she said loudly without looking up. “I have shamed you, my family, my kingdom and myself with my actions and behavior towards you.”
Iain looked at Shikarou, who was impassively watching the scene, and then at Poppet, who had a faint smile of satisfaction that made the muscles in his jaw bunch as he gritted his teeth. Standing over her felt stupid, so he dropped to one knee. “Kozakura,” he said quietly, “what actions are you seeking my forgiveness for?”
“I have behaved improperly towards you and treated you as beneath me,” she said to the floor just as loudly as before. “It began when I thought you were human and acted as if you were beneath me. I didn’t know you were a dragon and my improper behavior continued when I discovered you were spirit folk and suddenly treated you as if I am your equal, although I am not. I shamed myself even further when I sought your attention.”
Iain could smell her fear. He carefully didn’t let what he was feeling show on his face as he rose. “Kozakura, stand up and face me.” She slowly climbed to her feet, keeping her head down. “Give me your hands.” She slowly lifted her hands and he took them. He could feel her hands trembling as they rested in his. “Raise your head and look at me.” She slowly lifted her head to stare at him with eyes wide with fear and her ears rotated all the way back and completely flat. He reached out with his twee. Kozakura-san, I know your father is making you do this. This is not you. I accepted you as you were when we met. Even if I didn’t necessarily like the way you treated me, I didn’t take offense at it as you are a product of your upbringing and Shikarou feels much the same way you do. I see how he feels both in his behavior and in how he allows his family and household to treat me. We both know that the only reason you are here is because he feels what you did shamed him, and he demands you make amends for what he feels. Her eyes went even wider, but, at the same time, the fear in them had diminished. I don’t know what he expected me to do and I really don’t care. You are a proud woman, almost as proud as your mother is, and I would never dream of embarrassing you in front of anyone, much less your father, to make him happy. Will forgiving you be enough to satisfy him?
It will, Iain-sama. He could hear the hesitation in her mental voice. My father hopes you will beat me and it will make you less unhappy with us. He wants you to punish me.
“Kozakura, I forgive you,” Iain said quietly. Kozakura-san, do you want me to beat you?
I do not. Why do you call me Kozakura-san?
I do not feel that you are either inferior or superior to me, Iain replied. San denotes equals and I would like to treat you as an equal, as long as I keep in mind my promise to Kasumi.
Her ears twitched. Promise?
I promised her that I would only have one kami wife, that being her, unless she gives permission otherwise. I must always remember that when you are around for you are very pretty.
Only her eyes betrayed her shock. You think I am pretty?
Please don’t tell anyone else what I said. It would only get me in trouble with your mother.
She blinked several times. “Thank you for forgiving me, Iain-sama,” she said. I will tell no one, Iain-sama, her mental voice paused for several seconds. May I call you Iain-san when my father is not around?
I would like that, Kozakura-san. I would also like us to be friends and, if you do not mind, I am going to give you the opportunity to get to know me and my family better so that we might become friends. Is that acceptable?
It is, Iain-san.
Iain squeezed her hands gently. “However, I feel that you need to atone for your actions, Kozakura.” He looked past her to Shikarou. “I want her to stay here for a month so she can get to know the people she has been belittling. She will be my guest, but she’ll get to do chores and such with everyone so she can be one of us for a while and see what our lives are like. If, at the end of the month, I feel that she has reached some understanding of us, I’ll let her return home. If not, I’ll keep her here for a while but no longer than a total of six months.”
“She did not come here expecting to stay here for any length of time,” Shikarou said. “Her pokegirl is back in the kingdom, as are her clothes and other possessions.”
“I won’t separate her from Nejiko, so she’ll have to be here while Kozakura is and she’ll be doing everything Kozakura does. Have Nejiko bring her mistress’s weapons and other personal possessions when she comes here, but they’re both going to be clan for at least a month. We’ll take care of their clothes and other sundries.”
Shikarou nodded. “Kozakura, you and Nejiko will obey Iain as if he were me.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” she said without looking away from Iain. She relaxed slightly when he smiled.
Iain released Kozakura’s hands. “Now that’s taken care of, please sit down over there,” he motioned her toward a comfortable chair. “Was Kozakura’s behavior the reason you asked for this meeting before the barbecue?”
Shikarou nodded. “She needed to make amends for her behavior, but I didn’t want her to do this in a public setting.”
“This is actually pretty fortunate because Kozakura’s grandmother is here and she’ll get to spend some time with her.”
Kozakura frowned. “Amaterasu is here?” She turned bright red, “I am sorry for speaking without permission, Iain-sama.”
“It’s all right,” Iain said soothingly. “And I’m talking about your maternal grandmother, although technically she’s not since she calls Kasumi her granddaughter too. Your maternal grandmother is actually Mizuho, but she’s back in her universe where she belongs.” He sighed. “I’ll let her explain it. Theodora, please ask Kasumi and Yuko to join us.”
“What are you talking about,” Shikarou said. “I thought Yuko stayed in Nippon with Kasumi’s family.”
Kasumi and Yuko came in. “Shikarou, Poppet, I bid you greetings,” Kasumi said. “Hello, Kozakura.”
She was watching Yuko curiously. “Mother.”
Yuko grinned, showing her rows of teeth. “So this is the daughter you told me about. I am Yuko and I am the analog of the Yuko who is your oldest living ancestor on your mother’s side except for Watasumi, whom I hope you never meet. As her blood is the same as mine, I have adopted Kasumi as my descendant. If you are worthy of the gift, I will adopt you as well.” She looked at Iain. “I would take this one with us.”
Iain looked at Kasumi. “Please don’t let your grandmother break Kozakura on her first day.”
Kasumi nodded. “What is her status within the clan?”
Iain started to answer and stopped. She was so not going to be inner clan. “She and Nejiko both are outer clan while she’s here atoning, but she’s still your daughter so she gets some of the privileges of inner clan.”
“I will speak with Ninhursag,” Kasumi said. “We will determine the limits for later approval.”
“Ok.” Iain turned to Kozakura. “I’d like you to go with Yuko and Kasumi. When I am done meeting with Shikarou, I’ll come find the three of you. You have a lot to learn in a very short time about what it means to be clan. I am fully aware of how smart your father and mother are, and I know you are that smart too, so I expect you to pick up things quickly and work to fit in. I expect the same from Nejiko. Inform her that I will not hold you responsible for any misbehavior on her part.” Kozakura looked surprised. “While she is your retainer, she is an adult and she will take responsibility for her actions. I don’t know just how formal your relationship is with her, so stress this: She is forbidden to commit seppuku while she is here.” Kozakura was staring at him. “If she ignores that rule and kills herself, I will not let her use that to escape my punishment. I’ll just bring her back and she will still have deal with whatever the original situation was on top of whatever punishment I’ll decide she gets for disobeying me and trying to escape. The same goes for you. Do you understand me?”
“I do, Iain-sama. I will explain the situation to Nejiko.”
“Good. Now please go with Yuko and Kasumi and I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Hai, Iain-sama.” Kozakura got up and headed for her mother. “Mother, I am yours to command.”
“Iain,” Kasumi said. “We have an appointment with April for induction testing. I will have Kozakura bring Nejiko there too.”
“Thank you. I’ll probably see you at the obstacle course then.” He watched them leave the room before turning back to Shikaoru.
“It’s pouring down rain,” Shikarou noted. “You’d make Kozakura and Nejiko run an obstacle course in this weather?”
“I will. I’ll be there with them.”
“So will I,” Marguerite added.
“Why,” Poppet asked.
“We are surrounded by enemies,” Iain said. “The leagues and the ferals all want to destroy us. We train for war and war ignores the weather.”
Marguerite smiled. “It’s not going to be fun for anyone. The rain makes the mud cake on your legs and body until it feels like you can’t move another meter.”
“So why on earth do it,” Poppet asked again.
“Mostly peer pressure,” Marguerite admitted. “The others will run it and they’ll shame me if I don’t. But it means our enemies won’t be able to use bad weather against us. They don’t train in it like we do.” She smiled amusedly. “You’d have thought that living on a subsistence diet while feral would have made me trim and fit, but I’m discovering I was never as fit as I need to be here.”
“While your visit was unanticipated,” Iain said, “it’s actually a good opportunity for you meet our two new clanswomen.” At his mental call, Kasserine and Ava came in from the kitchen. They were both wearing the styles they’d worn in Evermeet, although Theodora had taken it on herself to upgrade the fabrics used so they were wearing high quality linens and silks. Both had their black hair braded and, other than Ava’s eyes, they looked like twin sisters more than mother and daughter. “I’d like to introduce you both to Kasserine and Ava. They’re moon elves and are from Evermeet.”
Shikarou and Poppet exchanged slightly confused looks. “What does this have to do with us,” Shikarou asked bluntly.
Ava smiled. “Kerrik is sometimes rude too.” She looked at Iain. “Is that where Shikarou got that from?”
“It’s more of a spirit folk vs outlander thing,” Iain replied. “And we’re the outlanders to them. Shikarou was raised by Magdalene, but he spent a lot of time in his mother’s court after he became an adult.”
“I don’t believe my past is any of her business,” Shikarou snapped, his ears going flat. Beside him, Poppet looked as pissed as Iain had ever seen her.
“In elven society, I’d expect you to be polite since I’m your aunt,” Ava said primly. “In clan society I’d expect the same behavior. I also hope that’s the rule in your kingdom too.”
Shikarou’s face was a study in confusion. “Aunt?” He looked at Iain. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“No, it isn’t,” Iain replied calmly. “Before this went a wee bit sideways, I was trying to explain that Kasserine is Kerrik’s mother and Ava is his sister. That’s why I wanted you to meet them. And, no, they’re not analogs. This is your aunt Ava and your grandmother, Kasserine.” He looked at Kasserine, “He has a brother living in his kingdom. His name is Faelan.”
“You mentioned that once and Kerrik told me more about both of them,” Kasserine replied. “I will want to meet him and Jamie, along all of their women and my other great grandchildren from both of them. I do not share Selsharra’s prejudices and Kerrik’s children are my grandchildren, even if they are not all going to recognize me as their relative. Later, I will wish to meet Kozakura too.”
Iain nodded. “That won’t be a problem. She’s going to be staying with us for a while.”
“Kerrik has no family,” Poppet said. “His mother is dead.”
Shikarou shook his head, his ears very still. “No, I remember Magdalene once saying that she and Father were estranged when I was a child. And nobody has ever spoken of a sister before.”
“Until recently, we were estranged,” Kasserine said quietly. “And then he brought Iain to us and now we are here and are both betrothed to him.”
Poppet made a strangled noise. “You’re marrying Iain?”
“She sounds surprised,” Ava said to Iain.
“She is. She’s normally quicker than this, but recently she’s had a series of shocks involving us.”
Shikarou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Can you go over this again, this time from the beginning?”
Iain looked at Kasserine, who smiled. “I believe you should answer this question. I am still not completely cognizant of all of the details that he may want.”
Iain grimaced. “I don’t normally go into that level of detail with Shikarou about internal matters. He’s still not trying to be our friend and I’m getting to be sick of making overtures.”
“Then let this be the last but let it also be forthright. Even if he refuses to acknowledge it, he is part of my family.”
Ava put her hand on Iain’s arm. “Please, Iain.”
Iain shook his head slightly. “You two are probably going to get me killed.” He sighed before squaring his shoulders. “Understand this, Shikarou and Poppet Wolf,” he said grimly, “if any of this becomes common knowledge I am going to be extremely upset. You haven’t seen me lose my temper yet. I’d like to keep it that way. Pass that along to anyone you tell this to.” He continued before either of them could speak. “For the last few years, Kerrik and I have been discussing whether or not he was going to kill me and erase all trace of me from the universes. I, of course, have been arguing that I don’t deserve to die just yet.”
Poppet’s eyes went wide. “What does that mean?”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “You’re a genius so don’t play stupid with me. It means exactly what I just said it does. Kerrik has been considering killing me, snuffing out my soul and maybe removing even the memories of my existence from anyone he could find. The fact that I can be incredibly useful with what I know stayed his hand in the beginning. Later we became friends and that’s when Magdalene and Tanika hatched a plot to marry me to one or more of their children to bring me into the family and so they could harness what I know about others as well as keep me from divulging what I know about them. Kerrik bought into the plan and so he decided to wait a while longer before acting. Are you two geniuses following this so far?”
Kasserine took his hand. “Iain, this behavior is unseemly. Please stop. Shikarou may not be our friend yet, but you should not try to turn him away from us either.”
Iain sighed. “I guess you’re right. Shikarou, Poppet, if I have offended you, I apologize.”
“Please continue your story,” Poppet said. “Hopefully it’ll help make some things make more sense, but first I have a question. Do you have plans in place to kill us?”
Iain chuckled. “No. I’ve never had any plans to kill you or your family. First, there’s Kerrik and second our kids will probably intermarry one day. I did have plans in place to neutralize any threat you might present, but not to kill you.”
Shikarou’s ears flicked. “May I ask how you intended to neutralize us but not kill us?”
“You are using Tirsuli technology throughout your kingdom,” Iain said. “But Selene is not a standard Tirsuli AI and you and yours are not and are not trying to be clan. She does not have the standard Tirsuli knowledge base and she really needs it. Because of that lack, Theodora and I understand your technology better than you do. There are some blind spots inside your internal security network. They’re not very numerous and they’re not very big and they’re not where anything important needs to be protected, but they exist, and we exploited them to preposition some equipment. Some of it is there to protect you from some threats you haven’t considered, like a nuclear attack. The rest is designed to take down your entire security net without it being able to give any warning.”
Poppet was staring at him in shock. “Then what,” she breathed.
“With a minimum of fuss, you’d be taken into custody. Those of you who can go into pokeballs would be placed inside them and put into stasis while those of you who cannot would be introduced to the joys of duct tape, ball gags and large, rip resistant sacks.” Poppet’s eyes were getting bigger as he spoke. “When I deemed everyone suitably detained, I’d probably present you to Kerrik with an explanation about why I’d seen fit to do what I did, and he’d get a good laugh over it before deciding when he was going to let you go. The tar and feathers that were suggested by unnamed parties would most like remain only a suggestion.”
Poppet’s stare became angry. “That’s terrible!”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “No, it’s not, and now that you know about my plan, you’ll move to close those loopholes and I’ll be out of options of ways to safely take you prisoner. Fortunately, we’re not threatening each other. Now to return to what I was saying, up until a couple of months ago it was only Magdalene and Tanika who were trying to find a daughter or six for me to marry. At that point, Ninhursag invited Kerrik to widen the field by telling his other wives about us. He thought is a lovely idea and sent them all messages about my family.”
Shikarou’s ears flicked. “All of them? How many wives does my father have? I asked him once and he refused to answer. Do you know?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t reveal it,” Iain replied. “During all of this, Kerrik had been considering the situation of his sister and mother, who had been eking out a rather difficult existence in Evermeet. He decided that it would be a good idea to introduce me to Ava in the hopes that we’d hit it off. However, in the current equivalency timeline, both Ava and Kasserine were a lot older than they are now and both rather bitter and angry at how they had been treated, so Kerrik decided to take me back to when Ava first became an adult and introduce us at that point in her life, in the hope that if I took her away it would make Kasserine’s life better somehow.”
Shikarou frowned. “What does the phrase current equivalency timeline mean?”
“It’s a technical term for the present day in a different universe with a different time rate differential. What it really means is that Kerrik was willing to go back in his past and take the chance of changing his timeline to make his mother less unhappy with her lot,” Iain said. “He hadn’t had contact with her for a long time and didn’t think the changes would do anything to him. So far as he can tell, it didn’t.”
Shikarou was looking at Kasserine thoughtfully. “He must love you very much.”
“My son feels more of a sense of responsibility for what happened to me after he left and mistook it to be love,” Kasserine replied. “But deep inside he does still love me and we are working to bring that love out of its hibernation. I am working to do the same with my feelings for him.”
“After that it was pretty simple,” Iain said, taking over the discussion again. “I met Ava and told her and Kasserine far more about the situation than Kerrik wanted me to. What Kerrik hadn’t realized was that Ava and Kasserine are inseparable right now and Ava suggested I marry Kasserine in addition to marrying her. She never came out and said it, but I suspect it was going to be a condition for marrying me no matter what.”
Ava giggled. “See, you’re smart too.”
“Honestly, until she brought it up, it hadn’t occurred to me. But it is such a good idea that I jumped at the chance and now, in about a year I’ll marry Ava and a month later during the next full moon, I’ll marry Kasserine.”
“You will marry my mother the next full moon after the first full moon after we marry,” Ava corrected him. “That could be almost two months.”
“I might have scheduled our wedding already,” Iain looked at her innocently. “And it just might happen to fall on the day before a full moon.”
Kasserine cocked her head as Ava suddenly giggled. “You are such a greedy drake,” she said.
“I most certainly am when it concerns you, Kasserine.”
“I can see that you three already like each other,” Poppet observed, “but I thought you only married women you love. Do you love these two?”
Ava’s head snapped around to stare at Iain when the loud growl rumbled from him. An instant later it was gone. His voice was even and calm, but there was an undertone of tension, as if he were fighting to keep it that way. “I am going to decline to answer that question since you have no right, whatsoever, to ask it.”
Shikarou had shot to his feet and taken a step to put himself between Poppet and Iain. “Poppet,” he said firmly, “apologize, now.”
Behind him, Poppet had gone very still. Her voice was too calm, showing she understood at least how dire the situation had suddenly become, if not why. “I’m sorry for asking you to tell me something that it wasn’t my right to ask. Please forgive me.”
Iain took a deep breath and let out slowly. “I accept your apology.”
Shikarou’s ears flicked. “Are we good?”
“No, you’re not,” Marguerite said from where she stood. “I realize she can’t help trying to stir up trouble since her analog is just like she is, and this is how she thinks she can score points off of people, but trying to create that trouble between Iain, Kasserine and Ava is beneath even her. However, Iain is an adult and is willing to look past Poppet’s shortcomings to deal with you. I doubt he’ll even return the favor by causing trouble between you and your wife since her behavior isn’t your fault.”
Shikarou glanced at her. “I take it you’re not happy with Poppet either?”
“Right now, I’d like nothing better than to take her outside into that storm and see if three hundred years of sitting on her butt and playing the Elfqueen in Scotland has made her a better fighter than I am.” She chuckled. “But I’m an adult too and I’m willing to give her a pass in the hope our families can become more than just neutral acquaintances. But that pass is only this one time. I’m not nearly as patient as Iain is.”
“You can go ahead and sit down, Shikarou,” Iain said. “I don’t intend to fight you today.” He quirked a smile. “I try to avoid the battles I’d probably die in.” He looked at Ava. “Sorry about that.”
She smiled and took his hand. “You were growling because of me and not at me, I hope.”
“Were you also growling because of Mother?”
“I like that you’re so protective of us.” She kissed him on the cheek. “You just startled me.”
Kasserine took his other hand. “I also like that you protect us, Iain.”
“That’s good, because I don’t intend to stop, even if Ava can kick my butt in sparring.” He waited until Shikarou had sat down again next to Poppet. “So this is your grandson and Ava’s nephew as well as his one of his wives. Why don’t you four get a little better acquainted and me and Marguerite will get out of the way.”
Kasserine’s hand tightened on his. “I would prefer that you stay,” she said quietly. And Marguerite should stay as your guard. She said through her twee. I do not wish to be alone with Shikarou and Poppet and I certainly do not want Ava to be alone with him. He looks at Ava and at me with as much lust as Lyssand did.
Marguerite glanced at him She’s talking to me too. I’m not cleared to be your bodyguard, and this is not one of those jobs for someone who isn’t qualified.
I’ve told April, Ava’s voice joined the conversation in Iain’s head. She’s putting Ganieda, Canaan and Vanessa in the kitchen. Why Vanessa?
It’s a long story. Iain nodded. “Then let’s all sit down, and Marguerite can serve us some tea too, while we all get acquainted.”
Iain flared his wings and slowed his descent until he was hovering a few meters off the ground. Below him, grass waved wildly in the wash from his wingbeats as he slowly lowered until his rear feet gently touched down and compressed slightly as they took up his full weight. Then he folded his wings and dropped to all fours. His head turned so he was looking at the small group of people standing to his right. “Well?” He wasn’t yelling, but his voice carried quite clearly over the African veldt. On his far side, Ganieda, who had been flying sentry nearby, drifted towards the ground where she’d take up station to bodyguard him. A red flash of light said she’d released Dianthus to join her.
Kerrik looked at his sister and mother with a smile. “Go on.” They ran towards Iain as he looked back at Tanika and Magdalene. “I’ve never heard of a true dragon being that big.”
“After you told us,” Magdalene was watching the two moon elf women talking to their betrothed, “I went back to Father’s and checked his records. The largest recorded are among the golds and reds and they get to nearly forty meters long, but that’s right before they go into the Twilight and start their physical decline before they die. Nothing in his journals say anything about any dragons that are like Iain or Caintigern.” Her ears flicked. “Because of everything that’s going on here, I didn’t think it wise to ask Father directly about it.”
“Goddess no,” Tanika said. “We do not need him here.”
Kerrik looked from one to the other. “Why would he bother to come here?”
“Dragons are one of his special interests,” Magdalene replied. “He spends a lot of time as one and he’s intensely curious about all dragon species. He would want to study Iain and Caintigern. He might even try to pay court to Caintigern.”
Tanika snickered. “And if he did and Caintigern pulled out the fact that he isn’t one of the People that Iain says she does to outlanders and then then told him to piss off, he wouldn’t be happy to be spurned.”
“That is putting it mildly,” Magdalene noted. “And then there is the problem that wherever Father goes, the Kalan Empire isn’t far behind.”
Kerrik made a disgusted noise. “And even the lesser Houses would be able to steamroller the leagues. If a Great House decided to invade,” he sighed, “or, more likely, two or more of them decided to go to war over the resources of this world, what a mess that would be.”
“Not to mention that your response to their conquests since they wouldn’t stop at the Texas, Haven or Nipponese borders,” Tanika said quietly, “would mean the confrontation you and Father have been avoiding since you learned of each other’s existence would finally take place.”
Kerrik nodded. “I wouldn’t ask you two to choose sides or even to get involved.”
Tanika looked at Magdalene and they grabbed Kerrik’s hands. “Husband,” Magdalene said firmly. “We have already chosen to stand with you. We love our Father, but you are the man we will spend eternity with.”
“But before we all gloriously march off to die,” Tanika grinned, “we’ll continue trying to keep that confrontation from ever happening.”
“And I’ll help as much as I can,” Kerrik said. He chuckled softly. “So now that you’ve seen his adult form, are either one of you still interested in having his babies?”
“I never said anything like that,” Tanika smirked when he merely raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t. Never did.”
“Out loud,” he noted with an amused tilt to his ears.
“Yes, Kerrik, we still like Iain,” Magdalene said. “Who he is has not changed. Arguably, what he is hasn’t either, since we don’t know when his spirit was changed from human to dragon. It then follows that whatever interest we might or might not have in him has not changed.”
Kerrik turned to look at Iain once more. “I sometimes wonder about that,” he muttered.
“About what,” Tanika asked as she poked him in the side with a clawed finger.
“Iain’s women spent a lot of time racking their brains trying to figure out when the change happened, so they could try to determine who might have done this to him,” Kerrik said quietly. “Dominique and I talked about it at length to see if together we could figure out a way to determine a correct answer. We couldn’t since she couldn’t record what his spirit looks like and I didn’t know him before he lost his humanity. But Iain never got involved in that and he has never wondered aloud about who might have done this to him. I knew that he was pissed that it had been done, but I think he knew who had done it from the beginning.” His ears flicked. “And yet I know for a fact that none of his wives or other family have any idea of who that might be, because Dominique is still investigating in her spare time.” He met Tanika’s gaze. “And she is frustrated that he says it isn’t important and she might want to drop the subject since they can probably never get justice or revenge for it.”
“If he does know,” Tanika said, “he isn’t sharing with the people he loves.”
“And that’s not how they work,” Kerrik replied.
“It is if he’s protecting them,” Magdalene disagreed. “That is always paramount in his mind. Everything he does leads back to protecting them.”
Kerrik nodded. “And now he has the one thing he was missing to make his clan truly formidable in defending them from all outside threats.”
Tanika cocked her head. “What’s that?”
“Daya. In her he has his war chief, the one who will be whispering in his ear that waiting for the leagues to attack is a mistake and that he should strike first, while he is certain he has the upper hand and can win decisively.”
Magdalene chuckled. “I am sure those plans have already existed for years, Kerrik.”
“Yes, but Iain wasn’t pushing them. It’s not his attitude. But Daya is a firm believer in proactive defense. She will be if she isn’t already.”
“I don’t see him doing anything like that,” Tanika said. “But we can ask him about it.” She grinned. “It’s not like he is going to fly away with Ava sitting on his neck.”
Magdalene squeezed his hand as they walked towards Iain. “Did you hear what his plans were for Shikarou and the people of Haven if they’d become a threat?”
Kerrik chuckled. “Helen told me what she’d heard from Shikarou and Poppet when they returned from their visit.” His ears went back for a second. “Did you also hear why they went there in the first place?”
Magdalene frowned. “I did not. I only heard what Iain had planned to do to them.”
“It’s not surprising that they’d gloss over why they were there in the first place. Our son beat the shit out of Kozakura for, in his opinion, staining his honor by her behavior when she was chasing Iain. Then he dragged her to Iain’s and made her abase herself to Iain for what she’d done. Kasserine told me what had happened during one of her training sessions.”
Tanika sucked air in a hiss. “While that’s typical for the court of a Nipponese spirt folk, that behavior is definitely not clan. What did Iain do?”
“I’m afraid his actions are only going to raise your opinion of him,” Kerrik said with a quick smile. “He forgave her in front of Shikarou and, in the same breath, adopted her into the clan for the next six months so she could atone for what she’d done by living their lives with them.”
“That will be good for her and Nejiko both,” Magdalene was looking thoughtful. “They won’t be princess and retainer there.”
Tanika frowned. “Do you think he did it to protect Kasumi’s daughter from her father?”
“I think that’s exactly what he did,” Kerrik said. “And Kozakura thinks the same thing.” When Tanika looked quizzically at him, he smiled. “After I stopped laughing at the thought of Shikarou and Poppet wrapped in kilometers of duct tape, I went to talk to my granddaughter and make sure she wasn’t being treated too badly by her temporary clanswomen.”
Tanika’s ears flattened when he paused. “Well,” she said in a dangerous voice that Kerrik knew all too well. “What?”
“Iain is doing what he does and treating her as an adult and one of them. Nejiko too. It won’t hurt them, but in six months the pair of women that Shikarou gets back are only going to superficially resemble the ones he let go with Iain. Both of them are finally going to grow up and they’ve got good people to guide that growth.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Iain said as they came closer. “We’re not going to try and turn either of them against Shikarou or anything like that, but the plan is to let them grow into whoever they will.”
Tanika glared at him. “Just how good is your hearing now?”
“It’s kind of in flux at the moment,” Iain replied with good humor. “But, honestly, you weren’t whispering.”
“Kasumi is the most grateful for what Iain has done,” Kasserine was leaning comfortably against Iain’s front leg and shoulder. “The next six months will be the most time she will have spent with her daughter continuously since Kozakura was an infant. It also means that Kozakura will be living with us when Kasumi gives birth and will get to see her new sibling before anyone else in her father’s family.”
Tanika’s ears flicked. “What if she leaves earlier than that?”
“She won’t,” Ava said with a laugh. “Iain won’t let her.”
Tanika looked up at his head. “Oh?” She smiled but didn’t comment as she watched Iain lower his head so their eyes were on the same level. It could have been intimidating, but she knew he was trying to do exactly the opposite and not seem to be dominating her with his size. It also helped that he wasn’t intruding on her personal space with his mouth full of interlocking razor teeth.
“I planned from the beginning to keep them for the whole six months,” Iain replied. “While it’s true that this will give Kozakura and Nejiko the chance to grow as individuals, what I really grabbed that opportunity for was to let Kasumi get the chance she’s always wanted to spend time as Kozakura’s mother now that they’re both adults. Whether it goes well or not, she’ll finally be able to give it a shot.” He chuckled softly. “I despise the overuse of the word closure, but in this case it’s what Kasumi needs.”
“We will get to meet Kasumi’s sisters,” Ava said excitedly.
Kerrik cocked his head. “You sound like that’s going to be soon.”
“It will,” Iain said. “Kasumi intends to introduce Kozakura to her maternal grandparents after we’ve finished breaking her and Nejiko down in about a month or three and have knocked that entitled elitist crap out of their heads.” His head lifted slowly and twisted so he could see Ava on his neck with his right eye. “Would you like to get off of me so I can change to human?”
“No,” she said cheerfully. “I’m quite comfortable here.”
His neck twisted a little more so it was looking almost directly backwards at her. “I only ask nicely once.”
Ava giggled. “Yes, my husband to be.” She swung agilely from his neck and dropped to the ground. “What would you have done if I had refused?”
Iain chuckled as he became his elven form. “Let’s just say it would have involved your face, a draconic tongue and a lot of saliva.”
Ava’s smile wasn’t particularly worried “You could have just picked me off of your neck.”
Iain shook his head. “My arms don’t bend that way and I don’t trust myself with your fragile skin in my teeth.”
Ava regarded him curiously. “Wouldn’t that be your forelimbs?”
“I’ve called them arms my entire life.” He slipped an arm around her and she made a happy noise as he pulled her close. Kasserine grabbed his free hand. “So now you three have seen my adult dragon form. Do you have any questions?”
Tanika nodded. “What’s your breath weapon?”
“If I have one, I don’t know what it is,” Iain replied. “As we know, not all dragons have one.”
Magdalene’s ears flicked. “Iain, do you know who turned you into a dragon?”
“I heard what Kerrik was saying. I wasn’t aware I’d been that transparent. And the answer to your question is that I do.” Iain glanced at Ava and Kasserine and then at Ganieda and Dianthus. “And I’m not going to say anything else about it. I confronted the responsible parties. No provision was made for me to go back to being human and there isn’t anything that can be done to change that fact.” He shrugged. “I will be a dragon for the rest of my life, but it hasn’t really changed the important things about who or what I am.”
“What are those?”
“I’m a husband and a father and I can still be both of those no matter what my DNA says I am. I love the women that I love and I still love my children. I’m just better able to protect them now, at least in theory, but in the end I’m still Iain.”
“Well said,” Ava kissed him on the cheek.
“As far as I’m concerned, being a dragon is like being a necromancer and being a mage,” Iain’s voice was calm. “All of them are part of what I am now, but none of them define me in regard to who I am. And, like the other things, I will master being a dragon and make it work for me and what I want.”
“As much as we can,” Kasserine said, “we will help him.”
“Why haven’t you told us that you knew,” Ganieda asked him. She was still watching their surroundings and her tone was merely curious.
“Because everyone would get mad or excited for me and I don’t want that,” Iain replied. “I’m not mad or excited about it anymore and I don’t see where others should presume to be that way for me when I haven’t asked them to. And some would just get upset with me for not telling everything I know and I’m getting tired of it. But rather than have a long fight with people I care about, I figured just to drop the subject. And I have asked Dominique to stop her investigations several times and been ignored. It’s my issue, not hers, and yet she refuses to listen to my requests about it. That doesn’t bode well for her listening to any other requests about it I might have so I just ignore the situation. And she won’t be alone, either.”
“While I don’t like your reasoning,” Ganieda said, “I can’t disagree with it.”
Magdalene nodded. “Does that mean you know when it happened to you?”
“It does not. And I’ve already said I’m done discussing it.”
“I apologize for being persistent,” Magdalene said.
Iain smiled. “Are you apologizing for being persistent or for being called out for being persistent?”
She chuckled. “The latter, of course.”
“Well, we’re friends so you don’t need to apologize, just please respect my boundaries in this.”
“I will try.”
“Thank you.” Iain looked at Kerrik. “So now you’ve seen I can finally become a full sized dragon. Since you were and will be again my instructor, I felt you needed to see it.”
“Why did you invite us,” Tanika asked.
“You’re my friends and, if Kerrik mentioned it, you’re comfortable enough with us that you’d have shown up asking to see the reality for your matchmaking efforts. I’d have shown you, but this way you’ve already seen it.” He looked at Kerrik and his wives. “Now, if you don’t have any other questions, I’m afraid I have something important starting soon.”
Tanika grinned. “What’s that?”
“We’re going on a picnic,” Ava said. “And I get to find out if Jack Holloway ever gets Little Fuzzy back or if he’s dead.” She winked. “I already know he isn’t. I figured out that the call between Henry and Ruth was important for the plot.”
Iain shook his head. “So, are we done here for now?”
“Yes, I think we are,” Kerrik was smiling. “I just hope that Nightraven keeps you as her student for at least a couple of years here.”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“There has never been a dragon master of my style,” Kerrik replied. “And I will have to figure out how to adjust things so it stays challenging for you no matter what.”
“You know, I’ve got nothing but profanity in response, and Kasserine wants me to avoid that around her if I can. So if all you’ve got are threats, I think we’ll be leaving now.” Kasserine and Ava headed over and took Ganieda’s hands while Dianthus came to stand next to him. He took her hand and waited a moment. “Then thank you and I hope you all have a nice day. Barb.”
Dianthus and Iain vanished, followed a few seconds later by Ganieda and her passengers.
“A picnic sounds like fun,” Tanika said. “Can we go on one too?”
“Are you trying to get me in trouble with Raven and the others,” Kerrik asked.
“They’re not here and we are and they know we’re here,” Tanika said. “You’re already in trouble with all of them except maybe Morwen and Autumn.”
“Instead of a picnic,” Magdalene said, “I think dinner at a nice restaurant in Nippon would be nice. It’s dinner time there.”
“If we’re going to dinner,” Tanika argued, “we should wait until Melanie’s opens.”
“I’m not staying away from Raven and the others for that long,” Kerrik said. “We’ll get takeaway in Nippon and come back and picnic somewhere around here. Deal?”
Tanika slipped her arm through his. “Will you read Little Fuzzy to us too?”
“It sounds like you’ve already read it.”
“No, I haven’t, but it’s a favorite of Iain’s kids and I’ve heard a lot of it helping with them. So has Magdalene.”
Kerrik just chuckled and grabbed Magdalene’s hand. An instant later they were gone.
Lynn flew backwards and smashed through some trees before hitting the ground. She pushed up on her hands and knees to spit blood and a couple of teeth before shoving to her feet and moving slowly towards where Chuck waited in her battle form with a triumphant grin on her face. “Hold.” The Growlie stopped and gave Sofia a wary look, which shifted to worried at the expression on the Ria’s face. “You are consistently leaving yourself open. Why?”
Lynn shrugged. “Am I? I didn’t know I was.”
“Not only are you consistently leaving yourself open, you’re doing it the same way every time. You’re better than this, but you’re not focusing. Pay attention to what you’re doing.”
Lynn’s ears flattened. “Yes, mistress.”
Sofia’s eyes narrowed and her ears flattened in response. More dangerously, there was a soft crackling noise and the sudden smell of ozone as tiny bolts of electricity crawled up the end of her tail. “Lose the attitude, Lynn, and show me.”
Lynn charged Chuck, who promptly knocked her flying again into and through some heavy tree branches as Sofia watched impassively.
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