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Loose Threads

Eighty Five


            Sofia would like you to come to her room, Theodora told Iain as he sat under a tree and studied a tome of formal magic spells that Selsharra had loaned to him. It still wasn’t really all that useful but he knew that he would puzzle things out eventually as his classes with his various teachers progressed. Privacy has been invoked and I recommend you do what she asks and that you hurry.

            Iain tucked the book under his arm and headed for the Sabine House. Please have a remote waiting to take my book back to my lab. I’ll get it later.

            It’ll be inside the front door.

            Iain trotted inside, handed the book to the remote, took the stairs three at a time up to the second floor and trotted to Sofia’s door. He cracked it open. The lights were dim and the air was redolent with a scent that niggled at his memory. “Sofia?”

            “Come inside,” she said softly.

            Iain slipped into the room and shut the door behind him. Sofia was nude and lying on the bed. He recognized the smell now. “Should I call someone?”

            “You are certified as a midwife,” Sofia said with a smile. “I would like you to do this. When we take them to medical to have them checked and twee implanted, Theodora has already offered to clean the room.”

            “How far along are you?”

            “According to Theodora I am almost in active labor.” Her ears flicked. “Theodora, I waive privacy for you to communicate here. Daya too.”

            Theodora appeared. “Her contractions last for nearly fifty seconds with roughly four minutes between them.”

            Iain hadn’t been skiving off when getting his midwifery certification from Siobhan, “That means we probably still have a few hours,” Iain reached for one of her dresses. “Unless you’re feeling as weak as an Indigo human woman, it’s too early to be lying down. Let’s take a walk. If you want to take a quick shower first, I’ll wash your hair.”

            Sofia sat up with a smile. “If you didn’t have your twee, you’d still remember what each of us really likes you to do, no?”

            “Si. I might have to take notes if I didn’t have my twee, but I would since it’s kind of important.” He held out his hand and she took it to pull herself to her feet. “What’s also important is that you’re a valued member of our family and you’ll be missed by people. Privacy will make many of those people wonder where you are and what you’re doing.”

            “I have already informed April, Ninhursag, Siobhan and Irena that I am in labor,” Sofia pulled him gently into the bathroom. “They also know that you’ll be here and they know that they are not welcome until I allow it. April is waiting for you to confirm that you are here.” Her ears flicked as she stepped into the shower to turn it on. “You can do so while taking off your clothes.” The water came on, but Sofia ignored the initial blast of icy water. As a child she’d never had hot baths and didn’t need the water to be warm as it flowed before getting into the shower. After she’d gone through threshold and become a Peekabu, she had to bathe in streams and hadn’t experienced hot water as part of bathing until he’d been given her as his starter pokegirl in Silver River.

            “Hint taken.” She gave a low, throaty chuckle as he pulled off his t-shirt. April, I’m with Sofia.

            Should I ask if I am going to deliver any of the harem’s children, she asked, her obvious amusement leaking over their delta bond. So far I’ve only delivered children for women in Shield while you have delivered all of the harem’s children.

            You delivered all of the children in Monica’s sept, he pointed out. And without stabbing Camille when you delivered Michael.

            April’s laugh echoed in his mind. And it was a very close thing indeed. If I’d had to c-section her I might have stopped the cut at her chin. I am very glad that I don’t hate her anymore.

            We all are, Iain told her as he undressed. That kind of hatred is unhealthy for anyone.

            How is Sofia?

            She’s fine. We’re going to take a shower and then a walk since she’s not that far along and I don’t want her lying in her bed for the next ten hours.

            Pokegirls deliver quickly, April warned him.

            I know, but she’s got at least three hours. I’ll walk her around a bit and then we’ll come back here and play dominoes or something else while she finishes dilating to ten centimeters. I’m keeping an eye on her progress and if it speeds up I can respond quickly.

            I may have to try having perception after all if it’ll let me see inside my patients.

            Iain stepped into the shower. Sofia was standing still, her tail limp, her ears flat and her hands clenched into fists. Iain watched but didn’t get involved since she hadn’t asked for help. I gave it to Irena yesterday. Ask her if it’s that useful since our phones can act as medical scanners.

            I’ll do that.

            He reached for the shampoo. I’m busy now and Sofia will bite me if she even suspects I’m multitasking with you while I’m with her.

            April laughed within the recess of his mind again. Understood. I’ll bite you too if you ever do that to me. Then she was gone.

            Sofia hissed and her ears came back up. “The contractions are easier when I am standing. I will remember that for my other pregnancies.”

            Iain knew that large families were the rule where she came from. If, later, their daughters could field their own rugby team, so be it. “April has been informed and I’ve got the shampoo.”

            She glanced at his crotch and the erection bobbing there in time to his heartbeat. “I am glad you are still hard for me, but for once I am not interested at all.”

            “I’d be all kinds of a bastard if I expected anything else,” Iain flashed a smile. “But if I don’t get hard around you, I’m probably dead.” He held up the bottle. “Shall I do your hair now?”

            Sofia turned away from him and backed up until the base of her tail brushed his cock. “I would like that.”


            Irena smiled. “And for the last of my report, Anna and Esmerelda are doing well, as is Sofia.” People glanced at Iain as she continued. “Their medical checkup showed they’re as healthy as we could expect and I’m planning a baseline neurological exam once their twee come online, but I don’t expect I’ll find anything scary except they’re as smart as their mother is.”

            Kasumi chuckled. “Hopefully she won’t recruit them to be trainers for her and April when they’re older.”

            “Now there’s an idea,” April said with a grin.

            “That’s a horrible idea,” Dominique countered. “I hate your sessions enough as it is. An army of Sofia clones would be unbearable.”

            “Two is not an army,” Vanessa pointed out with a laugh.

            “Are you aware of the family sizes in that part of the Silver River League?” Dominique shook her head. “Sofia’s mother had popped out sixteen children by the time Sofia went through threshold, and she was a human doing it one baby per pregnancy. Granted, ten of them died in their first year, but that’s not going to happen here. It is, however, what Sofia is used to and I don’t see her changing that just because she’s clan now.” She flashed a quick grin, the whiteness of her teeth startling against the darkness of her skin and redness of her eyes and lips. “After all, every Ria kit that lives makes the clan that much stronger.”

            “How do you know so much about her,” Ygerna asked.

            ‘When Sofia joined the harem, I was her mentor. I know more about her past than anyone except Iain, Daya and Theodora.”

            Ygerna blinked. “Mentor?”

            Dominique reached for her tea. “Ninhursag and Eve had instituted a mentoring program to help newcomers with acclimating to how different our harem was to what they might have known before joining us because,” she shrugged, “we are very different from a normal harem in pretty much any league.”

            “I was not aware of this,” Ygerna said. “Can it help Tara and the others?”

            “I hope I am helping them,” Allison’s ears flicked. “They seem to appreciate me.”

            Ygerna frowned. “You’re their mentor?”

            “I am. Let me guess, nobody mentioned it to you because you’re the queen and your subject’s personal lives aren’t important to you, or at least that’s what they still think?”

            Ygerna frowned unhappily. “I was unaware of the situation and you are likely correct as to the possible reason why I was unaware.”

            “I know you do care for them,” Allison smiled at her. “Tara is just the most stubborn woman I’ve met who isn’t one of Iain’s wives.”

            Ygerna chuckled. “Is that a commentary or a warning that my head of security will be angling for a promotion?”

            Allison snickered. “Tara is completely devoted to you.”

            “I’m taking the floor back,” Iain interrupted. “Is there anything else, Irena?”

            “Not really,” the Sanctuary Goth replied. “For the pools, I should mention that I think the next to deliver will be either Kasumi or Siobhan. Siobhan was pregnant a while before Kasumi, but our resident kami’s pregnancy is progressing faster than I’d expect in a human woman, but according to the records the progress goes in fits and starts, so we’re not sure when she will be full term and deliver. I did consult with Yuko, but she never kept records of how long she was pregnant, and it has been a rather long time since she has been with child. I also talked to Selene in Haven, but according to her records Kasumi’s first pregnancy was nothing like this one.”

            “What about Ygerna,” Silver asked.  “She got pregnant first.”

            “Sidhe carry their children nearly twice as long as humans do,” Ygerna replied. “I will not deliver this year.”


            “This pregnancy is progressing faster than my first one with Kozakura, but Theodora reassures me that the development of our baby is normal.” Kasumi noted with a amused glance at her husband. “I presume it is Iain’s fault for the differences, for it is much easier as well.”

            Irena grinned. “Yuko says it’s because Kasumi bred with a proper dragon this time and not some flea-bitten wolf half breed out of the even more flea-bitten wench Amaterasu.”

            Kasumi gave Iain an apologetic smile as people laughed. “My grandmother is unabashedly prejudiced against Shikarou because of his bloodline. I am glad we did not meet while I was married to him.” She sighed. “If only because I would not have wished to watch him try to seduce her.”

            “All you had to do was mention his parentage,” Eve’s smile was evil. “She’d have had nothing to do with him then.”

            Ninhursag rapped on the table with her fist. “Let’s come back to order again. Irena, are you finished?”

            “I am.”

            “That ends the formal reports for the general staff. Is there anything informal?”

            “I have something,” Kasumi said.

            Ninhursag looked around. “Anyone else?” She nodded to Kasumi. “The floor is yours.”

            “As you are aware, I have the blood of two spirit races within me,” Kasumi began quietly. “The wolf line from Shikarou and my tatsu line from Watatsumi. Like everyone else here, I too desire to grow more powerful and, while my dragon blood has no special ceremonies associated with it, Shikarou’s line has a ceremony where their strength can be increased, often substantially. While Shikarou is unavailable to help me with this ceremony, I have spoken with my father in law about undergoing this ceremony after I deliver our baby.” Her eyes met Iain’s. “Kerrik suggested that I not wait. He says that if we do the ceremony while I am pregnant, that power growth will also be given to our child, increasing not only his or her strength, but the clan’s strength as a whole, which is why I am asking for advice from all of you, my friends and family.”

            “Kerrik would not suggest such a thing if he believed it might hurt your baby,” Ygerna put her hand on Kasumi’s and squeezed gently. “And if it makes you more powerful, then there is only one answer, isn’t there?”

            “She’s right,” Ninhursag added. “What do you need from us?”

            Kasumi looked around the room with a grateful smile. “I would like Iain to be present for this. Not only does his presence bring me comfort, he may need to know this ceremony for our future children. I respect and like Kerrik, but if we can bring this completely within the clan, it would be to our benefit.”

            “Iain will be there,” Iain said. “I’ve been present for everyone else’s evolution, I’ll be there for yours if only so if your hair turns canary yellow I’ll know.”

            “I hadn’t considered this an evolution,” Kasumi was looking at him thoughtfully. “But I am going to allow magic to change me so that I may become more powerful, which is essentially what an evolution for a pokegirl is.”

            Iain nodded. “And you’re willing to let the magic change you in ways you don’t yet understand but are willing to allow to take the chance to become more powerful, and our child too. I’m not worried about any changes, I think I’ve proven that someone I love or even like a lot changing physically will not change my feelings for them.” He smiled. “On a personal note, I’m glad you ladies are the same way about my becoming a dragon. I didn’t volunteer for it, but even I must admit that it’s changed me in ways that I am almost certain are positive.”

            “If nothing else,” April noted with a grin, “Yuko accepts you a lot better because you are a dragon.”

            “Your becoming fey is the only reason that Danu was willing to deal with us,” Ygerna noted. “That is a positive to becoming a dragon.”

            Kasserine looked at him. I believe you should formally announce that you know who made you a dragon and that you will not reveal it so that Dominique can stop trying to determine the answer.

            Iain grimaced. Is it really that important?

            It is. They need to know. Yes, they will try to divulge the answer that you refuse to give in as many ways as there are members of the harem, but they should know that you know and that you have come to accept your situation.

            Iain sighed. “Since we’re talking about me being a dragon and how great it is, there is something else that I guess is official enough for this meeting.”

            Ninhursag looked at him curiously. “What is it?”

            “I know how I came to be a dragon, which means I know who is responsible for my change. I have approached this individual and nothing can be done to return me to not being a dragon, so a dragon I will be for the rest of my life. I accept this with as much grace as I can, and I wanted to inform you that I know what happened so that some of you can stop trying to discover that information.”

            Eve gave him a satisfied smile. “Good. Who did this to you?”

            “I am not going to tell you.” He looked around the room as she scowled angrily. “I am not going to tell any of you, and that includes Theodora and Daya.”

            “It was not Danu,” Ygerna said. “You would be a dragon of a species that I recognize if it were her. And Mielikki had not yet come to this world.”

            “When I say I’m not going to tell you, it means that I am not going to play the guessing game where you try to get me to reveal this or use it to narrow down what you think are possible choices.”

            “We need to know,” Dominique growled.

            “Why?” She blinked in surprise at him. “I’ve already told you that I am a dragon and a dragon I will stay. I cannot be turned back into human Iain. Nobody has a record of what my unique spirit was like before I became a dragon. At best I could be changed into a human, and what human I would become would be up to chance.” His face was grim as he looked around the room. “I certainly would no longer be Iain Grey and I might not love you anymore. I will not take that chance.”

            “We could get justice for what happened to you,” Allison pointed out.

            “Everyone is telling me how great it is to be a dragon. What do I need either justice or revenge for this if it is so awesome?”

            “This was done to you against your will,” Ninhursag said quietly in the sudden stillness.

            “I won’t deny that, but nothing will make me what I was, I am adapting to what I am and it does make me harder to kill.”

            “If we don’t do something they might do this to other people,” Kasumi was watching him concernedly.

            “I am almost certain that this will not be done to anyone else by whoever did it to me while I live,” Iain replied. “I can’t say I have their promise, but I understand why this was done and, since I intend to live a very long time, it shouldn’t happen to anyone else.”

            Dominique cocked her head. “Can you tell us why this was done to you?”

            “Yes, I can tell you and no, I will not.”

            Kasserine held up her hand as Dominique started to speak. “Please wait, sister.” She turned to Iain. “You will not, so we can deduce that you know why you were made into a dragon. Is there a reason that you will not reveal these things?”


            “Would knowledge of these things prove potentially harmful to us?”


            “You refuse to tell us because you believe it keeps us safer.”


            Kasserine looked at Dominique. “If that is what my husband believes, no one will ever get him to answer. Yes, it is maddening that he refuses to tell us, but you know that if he believes it imperils even one of us, nothing will convince him to reveal this information.”

            Dominique nodded. “Iain, if I wish to continue my research, will you order me to stop?”

            “No. I can’t.”

            “You can and I would listen to you,” Dominique cocked her head. “I am happy that you won’t. If I continue my research and I discover the truth, will I be in the danger you are protecting us from by not telling us now?”

            “Yes. But it wouldn’t be just you who was in danger. It would be anyone you told or who found out from your work.”

            “Regardless of how it is discovered, we would be in danger from this knowledge. Will you also be in danger if we knew this knowledge?”

            “Probably not.”

            “I didn’t think so since you already know it.” Dominique leaned back in her chair. “I’ll stop looking.”

            “Thank you.” He looked at Ninhursag. “That’s all from me today.”

            She nodded. “Are you invoking privacy on this?”

            “I am not, but I would like it to stay within the clan, just like the knowledge that I’m not human.”

            “Considering that most pokegirls,” Allison gave him a lazy smile, “would be beating down our door if they knew how great it is here with you being human, we’d have to wall our property and have regular patrols to keep them out if the idea that you could make their children more powerful ever got out.”

            Iain gave her a flat look. “There is no evidence at all that my sperm does anything to a parthenogenic pregnancy.”

            She shrugged. “Until there is definitive proof that it does absolutely nothing to one, many will believe that it does something. Dragons are extremely powerful and magical creatures.”

            “There is no way to definitively prove that,” Kasumi pointed out.

            “I know,” Allison reached for her water bottle. Her ears flicked as gave him a smug look. “We might want to start stockpiling materials for that wall.”

            “It’s already been done,” Ninhursag said as she stood. “If there’s nothing else, this meeting is adjourned.”


            Giselle appeared with Kasumi, followed a second later by Ayame and Nishiko. Immediately after them appeared Ganieda, Iain, Heather and Zareen.

            Raven grinned at them in the light from the house. “Welcome.”

            Iain bobbed his head in greeting. “Lady Wolf.”

            Raven’s smile widened. “I like that. Feel free to call me that whenever you want.” She gestured into the darkness. “Kerrik and the others are waiting for you on the hill he picked out. I’ve just sent the location to your twee.” She lifted off to hover in front of them. “I’d guide you, but I want to check up on our other visitors.” Her smile vanished. “You’re guests. They’re visitors.”

            Kasumi gave her a curious look. “Faelan has always been polite and, as I had thought, he was interested in seeing what someone facing their beast might be like since his children will have to undergo it one day.”

            “It’s not him,” Raven said. “It’s Svetlana’s attitude I don’t like. I have only met her once in the time I’ve known Kerrik, but she’s treating Kerrik like her favorite uncle that she drops in on regularly.”

            “Svetlana has known Kerrik for decades longer than you have,” Iain pointed out quietly. “And I have no idea if they’ve been communicating, but I suspect they have.” He looked at Heather. “Get us moving.”

            “And that’s my cue,” Raven turned and rose into the darkness.

            Heather nodded as Raven flew away. “Zareen, point. Ganieda, you’ve got the rear and I’ll be with Iain. Giselle put one of yours up on CAP.”

            “Nishiko, overhead. Ayame, you’re with me and Kasumi.”

            The Archmage shot upwards into the night as Zareen disappeared into it in front of them. Ganieda dropped back as the others headed forward at a brisk walk.

            They were headed up the path on the hill when Zareen touched Iain’s mind. Svetlana. Waiting.

            Thanks. Iain had already extended his perception so he merely sent an alert to the others in his group. Svetlana’s up ahead and she may be waiting for us.

            Everyone had night vision and the Megami Sama was standing by the path and not trying to hide her presence, so Kasumi smiled at her. “Good evening, Svetlana.”

            Svetlana nodded to her. “Kasumi, I hope you are well.” Her eyes searched the darkness behind them. “Is Ygerna here?”

            “No.” Iain bowed slightly to her. “This is about kami, not Sidhe, and I didn’t see any reason to bring the two of you together. Tonight’s activities are about Kasumi, not about how much you hate Ygerna.”

            “Don’t forget how much she hates me,” Svetlana said coolly.

            Kasumi shook her head. “Ygerna does not hate you, Svetlana.”

            Svetlana’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, and just how does she feel about me?”

            “You don’t want to hear the answer to that,” Ganieda stepped between Kasumi and Svetlana. “She’s with us now and this is where she belongs. Just let it go.”

            “She’s right,” Faelan appeared out of the night. “Drop it, Svetlana.”

            “Fine.” She rubbed her eyes and turned to Iain. “But there’s something I have to know. I’ve heard a little bit about what happened with the Celestial Alliance here, as well as your involvement with it. You know that I was part of the Alliance back on my home world. What made this one so different from the one I was happy to be a part of for most of my life?”

            Iain wanted to ignore her, but there was no avoiding what was coming. “Nothing.”

            Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Nothing? I don’t understand.”

            “The truth is hard, Svetlana.” Iain kept his voice gentle. “Are you certain you want to know it?”

            “I am a Celestial,” Svetlana stated proudly. “I must follow the truth. Answer my question.”

            “Please,” Ganieda snapped, her ears flat.

            Svetlana glanced at her and nodded. “Please answer my question.”

            “The Rafaela and Prastara that were the heads of the Celestial Alliance you served before you met Faelan and during the first years you were with him assassinated the original leaders of the Alliance, those being three Megami Sama littermates named Belldandy, Urd and Skuld, when they took it over and then purged anyone they thought might try to stop them from doing what they wanted. The only difference is that, on your world, they succeeded. Otherwise they are just like the ones who were tried, convicted and executed here.”

            A tear rolled down Svetlana’s cheek. “I spent my life in the service of a lie?”

            “You spent part of your life in the service of women who lied to you. You thought their goals were your goals. They never saw fit to correct your misconceptions and you never looked for duplicity from fellow Celestials. The murders,” Svetlana flinched, “happened long before you were born and the only evidence remaining of the crime exists in the minds of the people who committed it. There was never anything you could have uncovered or stumbled across that would have let you realize what was really going on, not until you had advanced much higher in the Alliance hierarchy and been vetted and then read into their real program. Even then you’d not have been told about how the Alliance came to be and what happened to its founders.” Iain gave her a gentle smile. “Now you’re with Faelan and he doesn’t lie to you.”

            “There was no way I could have known,” Svetlana whispered.

            “No, there wasn’t.” Iain watched her for a moment. “But you can atone for that service, if you feel you must.”

            Her mouth set. “I can’t follow Lucifer or the Sisterhood. I don’t approve of how they pick and choose who to help while leaving others to suffer and die without their aid.”

            Lucifer wouldn’t accept Svetlana as an applicant, but Iain wasn’t going to say that. “There is a Celestial Alliance here, it’s run by good women and it would accept you as a part time or full time recruit.”

            “I don’t know,” the Megami Sama said. “I doubt they’d have me since I belonged to the group that tried to help kill them.”

            “Why don’t you discuss your options with your husband and family,” Iain was ready for this conversation to be over, but Kasumi looked patiently expectant that he’d solve this problem too. “If you decide that helping the Alliance is something you’d be interested in doing, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t approach Bell and her sisters about you.”

            “I think that would solve your dilemma neatly,” Faelan took Svetlana’s hand as he gave Iain a grateful look. “But he’s right that you’re part of my family now and so we need to decide if you have the free time you’d need to do this right.”

            “Kerrik is waiting for us,” Heather said abruptly.

            Iain glanced at her. “And he would wait a little bit while I tried to make his daughter in law’s life a little happier.” She nodded as he turned back to Faelan and Svetlana. “But we all know his patience isn’t infinite.”

            Svetlana put her hand on his arm. “Thank you for telling me the truth and for taking the time to talk to me.”

            Iain was getting tired of reminding people that his family was trying to be friendly. “You’re welcome. You know, you don’t have to be a stranger. Lucifer and Eve don’t bring work home with them, that’s a rule, and so they won’t talk Sisterhood business to you or around you while you’re visiting our home. And you can meet Olivia and Seraphina, who are currently the smartest and most perfect Megami Sama children I’ve ever seen, and you might like meeting Haley and Miriam.”

            She frowned “Who are they?”

            “They’re orphans from the rebellion. We adopted them and so they’re our daughters now. They’re Angels and they could always use a new Celestial friend. Granted, you’d have to meet all of our other children, but you might like them too.”

            Faelan’s ears flicked when Svetlana visibly hesitated. “You’re going to make her want to have kits.”

            “I’m not going to make her want to do anything,” Iain looked at a thoughtful Svetlana. “If she decides she wants to have your babies, I didn’t influence that, I think she’d be a good mother and I think you’d be a good father.”

            Faelan’s mouth set. “I don’t like you very much right now.”

            “I can live with that. I still think you’re pretty much all right.” Iain turned to Svetlana. “Kerrik is waiting for Kasumi and I don’t want to give him another chance to chase me with an axe. It hurt a lot when he finally hits me with it and he ruined some shirts I was rather fond of.”

            “You’re right. And Faelan needs to see this so he can do this for our children,” Svetlana let Iain’s arm go before she and Faelan vanished.

            Iain sighed. “Blood and darkness, these people are just royally fucked up. Heather, get us moving.”

            “I believe I can understand that pressures that Svetlana feels she is under due to her previous relationship with the Alliance and why she would desperately seek information that might bring her peace,” Kasumi’s voice was quiet as they trotted for where Kerrik was waiting for them.

            “I just don’t get why I have to solve their problems,” Iain grunted sourly. “The information about the various iterations of the Celestial Alliance is available on request from Theodora.”

            Heather glanced at him. “I am more comfortable seeking information from my inorganic clan sisters than probably anyone in Haven and I’m not really all that comfortable talking to them. She would rather speak to what she feels is a living person and women tend to trust you.”

            Iain grunted again. “When I finally slip over into evil and become a serial killer that will make it easier to isolate my victims so I can do away with them, but until that point I just don’t get it.”

            “Sir, why are you trying to convince Svetlana to have children?” It was Giselle.

            “Our kids are going to need partners, husbands, wives and mates,” Iain replied. “And so far the people of Haven are doing a piss poor job of providing any of them for us. They need to get hot on that.”

            Zareen was waiting with Kerrik and the kami looked curiously at her when she suddenly giggled. She flashed him a wide smile. “Iain here soon.”

            “Is that what’s so funny?”

            “No.” She glanced at where Faelan and Svetlana were standing and having a quiet and, from the set of Faelan’s ears and Svetlana’s lips, a rather intense conversation. “My male cunning.”

            Kerrik shook his head slightly. “I know you’re fluent in English.”

            Zareen grinned again. “Fluent many tongues.”

            “Be that way.” Kerrik ignored her as Iain’s group arrived. “What took so long?”

            “Svetlana stopped us to find out if the Alliance of her world was steeped in blood and betrayal,” Iain kept his voice low. “She was a bit put out to find out it was.”

            “I’ll bet,” Kerrik was watching his son and daughter in law as he spoke. “She likes to believe her hands are as white as driven snow.” He shrugged. “Snow’s not really all that clean and nobody’s hands are as clean as they believe snow can be. Besides, I’ve heard the story about how they met.” He glanced at Iain. “I’ve read it too.”

            “I didn’t know everyone was real,” Iain leaned against a tree. “It wouldn’t have stopped me since the voices in my head won’t shut up unless I write, but I might have written parts of those stories a little differently if I’d known the people in it would later be reading it while I was around.” He glanced at Faelan and Svetlana before turning his attention back to Kerrik. “But we’re here for Kasumi, her request and your offer, not your kid’s marital problems.”

            Raven’s gasp was audible as Kerrik’s ears flattened for an instant. “I’m not used to dealing with another sociopath,” he said pleasantly. “It’s not as refreshing as I thought it might be to have someone be as direct as I can be.” He glanced again at Faelan and Svetlana. “But you’re right.” He raised his voice. “Faelan, I’m going to start now and you’re here to observe. If you and Svetlana can’t put your discussion on hold for a while I’d like you to leave.”

            “Sorry, Father.” Faelan gave his wife a quick glance and hurried over. Svetlana followed, the look in her eyes suggesting that whatever they’d been discussing, they weren’t through. “Is this going to be like Jamie’s transformation?”

            “No.” Kerrik motioned towards a stone table. “There’s no altar, first, which is good because I doubt I could use the one in Haven and there hasn’t been time to cut another one.”

            “Why couldn’t you use the one we have,” Svetlana asked curiously.

            Kerrik frowned. “What part of ‘can I bring your ex-wife, who dumped you, to your kingdom and use your magical paraphernalia to make her and her clan more powerful’ do you think someone would not have a problem with?”

            Svetlana’s eyes went wide. “She left the king?”

            Kerrik’s ears canted forward curiously. “He’s keeping the divorce a secret?”

            “No,” Faelan’s tone was thoughtful. “He let us know they were no longer married, but there was a heavy insinuation that he divorced her.” He looked at Svetlana. “And most of that came from Branwyn and Poppet.” He looked at Kerrik. “I asked him what happened, and he said he didn’t want to talk about it yet.”

            Kerrik sighed and looked at Iain. “Is my son having his women tell the lies that he can’t?”

            “I doubt that is the case,” Kasumi said firmly. “Shikarou was most likely sincere in his desire not to speak of the events of our divorce to Faelan and it would be like Branwyn to spin his silence to the family’s and kingdom’s advantage. It is likely that if Faelan and Svetlana review their memories of the discussions closely, neither Branwyn nor Poppet said anything directly, but they would have indirectly suggested how they wished the events to be perceived.” She looked at Kerrik. “I have always respected Shikarou for the fact that he does not try to lie even when he could indirectly do so, at least not to family. His women would do whatever they felt necessary to protect him and his honor.”

            “You’d do the same thing for Iain,” Svetlana noted.

            “I would not and he would not ask me to,” Kasumi faced her former sister in law unflinchingly. “I abhor lying and Iain is well aware that I do. The difference is that Iain would not seek to avoid a painful situation with someone like Faelan because he understands how necessary clarity is at such a time for all of the family.”

            “She’s also not a big fan of profanity,” Iain noted with a smile. “But she’s right about me, painful issues and the truth. If I were Shikarou and Kasumi and I had gotten divorced under the same circumstances I’d have told Faelan the whole story so nobody could use lies to try and make an end run around us or drive a wedge between us.” His smile vanished. “And I’d have told him what happened without regard for how much it hurt me to talk about it because it is critically important that he know the truth.”

            Svetlana folded her arms and glared at Iain. “You certainly snapped Kasumi up without waiting, didn’t you?”

            “Svetlana,” Kasumi stepped between her and Iain. “Iain offered to help me repair my marriage with Shikarou. If I thought he could have helped, I would have accepted that offer and he knew that I would have and he would have tried his utmost to help me stay married to Shikarou. I stayed with his family during my visit with them because it gave me distance from Haven while I worked to reconcile my feelings of hostility that had been building towards you and everyone else in my family for decades and he tried to help me do so. Iain was my friend, the first real one I’d had in a very long time. I decided that I could no longer be married to Shikarou. I decided to divorce him. I took the steps to do so. Iain did none of that and I would have been furious with him if he had interfered. Yes, he accepted me afterward, but that was fortunate for I had nowhere else to go. I could not stay with my former family and I had no property in Haven that I could retire to, or, truly any property anywhere in the world.” She smiled slightly. “And while we were friends and he did tease me a little because he is overly familiar due to being an American, I assure you that there was nothing romantic about the relationship I had with Iain until after my divorce with Shikarou was final.”

            Iain was weary of the entire situation and suspected it wasn’t about Kasumi and the divorce. “What have I done to make you so angry with me, Svetlana?”

            “I can’t stand the way you choose who lives and who dies by giving and refusing your aid to people. It’s wrong.”

            “Oh.” Iain sighed. “I’m not going to try to justify the way Lucifer runs the Prometheus Society and I’m not going to let you judge me or her, so you’re just going to have to be angry with me. But if you’re so offended by her decisions, I’d like to point out that you, through Shikarou, have access to orbital manufacturing complexes. While they’re not as broadly based as mine, yours are still pretty good and you could form your own version of Prometheus and help whoever you like.”

            “Shikarou told me I couldn’t do that,” Svetlana snapped.

            “I see. So you’re angry at me for something that Shikarou did. I can’t do anything about that, but if you wanted to talk to Lucifer and see if she might be amenable to your reasoning about helping some people, I could set up an appointment for you.”

            Svetlana blinked. “You would?”

            “I am married to several Celestials and have more in my family and some are my kids. I understand about the Celestial drive to do good deeds and whatnot, even if I don’t understand having the drive itself. That’s why I helped Lucifer to set up Prometheus when she asked me to. I’ve stayed out of it for the most part since because I don’t share that desire.”

            “I would like that,” Svetlana said.

            “Then I’ll set something up. However, I’d like you to remember that Lucifer has been around since the Revenge War on her world and she’s been in charge of the Sisterhood and now Prometheus for all of those centuries and she’s done a good job of it. You might want to treat her with the respect that she’s earned if you have any hope of having your ideas listened to fairly.” He didn’t want to say the next part but it had to be aired. “And you might want to realize that she isn’t going to accept your philosophy on doing good deeds, so you will want to carefully consider how you approach her unless you can accept her methodology.”

            Svetlana frowned. “I don’t understand.”

            “Lucifer is a doer. I am too, which is one of the reasons she and I get along so well and it’s also one of the reasons I sometimes have problems with my family over my having a security element.” He gave a mental grimace at the look of incomprehension on her face. “I am going to have to ask that you agree to hear me out before you get pissed off at me. I’m also going to have to ask that you save your questions until I’m finished, otherwise we’re never going to get anywhere tonight and I’d like to remind you that I’m here for Kasumi.”

            “We have some time yet,” Kerrik said quietly. If you can help her too, please do so.

            I should get to chase you with an axe for this kind of shit. Hire somebody to be their fucking therapist. Kerrik snickered softly as Iain organized his thoughts. “Do you agree to my two requests?”

            “I do.”

            “Like I said, Lucifer is a doer. She sees a problem and throws herself into solving it. She’s very hands on when she does. Historically, you have not been like that. Instead, you try to use the resources of others to perform charitable or heroic acts. For example, when Shikarou looted a bunch of gold bars, instead going down to where they were being retrieved from and getting a couple of extra bars, claiming them as part of your share and then spending them to do what you wanted, you then tried to apply a greed tax to the money so you could decide where it would be best applied. That’s why you and Shikarou butted heads so badly over it. He didn’t want to be taxed. You’ve had the same problems here in Haven. You want to spend the kingdom’s money on your projects and, again, the people who owned the funds you wanted to disperse balked.”

            Iain pulled his canteen off his belt and took a deep drink before handing it to Heather to pass around. “I realize you don’t have any money of your own, but that’s a personal choice. You have a lot of free time and you didn’t even consider that there are a lot of townships in Haven and a bunch more around the world that are completely empty of people. You could have looted them of the local cash, jewelry and other valuables and sold them. If nothing else, I’m buying them. I’m also buying bodies, of which there are always a lot of.”

            “Why are you buying bodies,” Faelan asked.

            It was for if the clan got lost in time and space, but the program also had other uses, some of which Iain was willing to tell outlanders about. “We’re compiling as comprehensive a DNA database of humanity as we can. Some of it may be for cloning babies in the future and it’ll give us a baseline on gauging inbreeding and genetic drift due to the bottleneck in the existing human population that’s about to take place because of the Bloody Flu as well as the Red Plague. It’ll also let use get started working towards the beginning of an understanding of the spread of pokegirl genes in the general population and what they are doing, which leads into research into the how and whys of threshold, which could lead to how to prevent or reverse it when it starts happening here. That also leads into understanding the how and whys of blood traits, which we might want to incorporate more of into our family if they’re beneficial ones.”

            Svetlana raised a hand. Iain nodded. “What do you do with the bodies afterwards?”

            “We cremate them and put them in the Gulf of Mexico. Every once in a while, we do come across one that we can link genetically with someone living who is already in our databases and we make a good faith effort to contact them about a possible relative first in case they might want to bury them.” Iain rubbed his eyes. “Once you’ve got some cash, you can use it however you want, but I’d suggest finding a relatively small project that you are happy to do work with and throw yourself into it.”

            “What is your project?”

            “I don’t have a project per se, but the family’s immediate project is an orphanage in Austin called Cassidy’s. He helps place human and pokegirl babies with families and he doesn’t want to turn away any child, so he’s perennially on the edge of going bankrupt and needs all the support he can get. We provide medicine, food and clothes for the children and we’ve helped him expand his operation to help with the constant influx of orphans. Cassidy’s started out as Pandora’s pet project, but it’s become one the whole family is involved in.” He shrugged. “Pandora is another doer in my family and just giving Cassidy money doesn’t make her feel like she’s accomplishing anything, so once a week or so we go down and help scrub, do laundry, sit in judgement of conflicts and all of the other things Cassidy could use help with.”

            “I’ve helped there,” Raven said from where she was standing sentry. “Cassidy is an odd man. If you just threw money at him he’d take it because he needs it, but he wouldn’t respect you at all. But since we get our hands dirty and help out, he even trusts us to do wellness checks on adoptees and suitability surveys on households before he lets a child go.” She shook her head, “I don’t blink at killing people. Being trusted with the responsibility to decide if a place is good enough for a child to live in scared me more than any fight I’ve ever been in.”

            “It’s because Cassidy is well aware of how much it frightens you that he gave you that task,” Kasumi was smiling widely at the Huntress Archmage. “He knows you fear failing the children and so your vetting of a prospective adoptive family will be as thorough as possible.”

            “And he doesn’t trust all of us to do those surveys,” Iain noted. “Just the people he trusts to do them to his satisfaction are allowed to perform surveys for his kids. I’m not one of the people he trusts for that job.” He turned to Svetlana. “The thing to remember is that you won’t get nearly the pushback from Faelan or anyone else if you want to do charity work with your personal resources than you get when you want them to do charity work for you or use their money or possessions to do it. Not to mention that if you want them to help you out, after you show you’re willing to get involved on a personal level, you might not get the fight you’ve been getting. You must never forget that only the king can compel people to do things he wants done, you’re not the king and compelling people doesn’t get as much work out of them as inspiring them does. Just don’t take that the wrong way.”

            Svetlana frowned. “What is the wrong way to take that?”

            “Raphaela and Prastara realized that simple truth and tried to become the kings so that they could compel others to do their bidding. Don’t be like them.”

            “And on my world they succeeded by shedding a lot of other people’s blood,” Svetlana nodded. “I’ll remember that.”

            “No,” Iain corrected her, “they had their underlings do all of the bloodletting. Neither of them did any fighting during the overthrow of Bell and her sisters. They gave orders and let proxies do the work instead so that they could keep their hands and consciences clean. It was one of the defenses that the ones here tried to use during their trial. Do you have any more questions?”

            Svetlana eyed him thoughtfully. “Can I buy supplies from you if I have problems purchasing them in Haven?” Faelan made a choking noise but broke off when she glanced at him. “If Shikarou disagrees with me and my choices, it will be hard to purchase anything I want to from anyone in Haven.”

            Iain already knew the answer to that question. “You can. For a nominal fee you can also arrange for them to be delivered anywhere in the world. Just understand there are some additional charges if the delivery is into an active conflict, but it doesn’t mean we won’t deliver. Prometheus will deliver anywhere it agrees to deliver and I will too, even if I have to perform that delivery with my shuttle’s weapons free and while under fire.”

            “Thank you,” Svetlana waved a hand towards Kerrik, “I believe we’re here for Kasumi’s ceremony.”

            Do you think she will come to me and Prometheus or to you, Lucifer asked through their bond. Theodora let me hear the conversation.

            I think she would prefer to go to you but she’ll come to me instead out of fear that you’ll find her goals not to be worth Prometheus’ assistance. It would be quite a blow to a Megami Sama to discover that first ever Megami Sama didn’t think her goals worthy of aid. Presumably, as a sociopath, I wouldn’t care about who the supplies go to. That’s not completely true but I’ll just keep good notes in case she delivers them to the clan’s enemies.

            You may well be correct in your analysis, Lucifer noted. However, I will bring this question up as a potential addition to the betting pools.

            Iain gave a mental shake of his head as Kerrik gestured towards the table. “Kasumi, please join me.”

            On the table were two large goblets and a very sharp looking knife. “Normally,” Kerrik said as he picked up one of the goblets by the stem and rolled it back and forth between his forefinger and thumb idly, “I’d have only one cup here, but there are a couple of special considerations because it’s you and the second cup is there for tonight’s procedure and not just in case.”

            “What special considerations,” Kasumi asked curiously.

            “You had your kami powers awakened by Shikarou, who thought he was turning a full human into a kami. He wasn’t aware of your heritage from Watatsumi given to you through Yuko. Because of that lack of knowledge, he used the wrong method to awaken your powers. Don’t worry, you are still kami, but because of the way he went about making you kami, his blood may have very little influence on you, which means that my blood may have very little involvement in tonight’s ceremony.” His ears flicked. “I know he didn’t use the same ceremony that I used on Jamie. That ceremony is neutral and Shikarou would insist on using the variant that would make you one of his bloodline. He did have you drink some of his blood as part of the process, right?”

            Kasumi nodded. “Hai.”

            “He did not lie you down and use a transfusion to replace all of your blood with his, correct?”

            “He did not.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked again. “If he’d known about the Watatsumi blood you carry he either probably would have insisted on the transfusion or he would have refused to awaken you.”

            “Why, grandfather?”

            “His dam and Watatsumi are not friends and a transfusion would have given him a stronger chance of purging all of Watatsumi’s blood from you and making you a pure wolf kami. As it is, your bloodline probably used Shikarou’s magic and blood to activate and then rejected it completely. Tatsu blood is usually much more powerful than okami and will tend to remove its elements from someone with a tatsu heritage.” He smiled. “It might make Yuko happy to know that as far as I can tell you carry nothing from my bloodline. Kozakura does, but she shows very little if any influence from the tatsu side of her heritage. She appears to be fully from my line.” He shrugged. “Magic.”

            “What does that mean for tonight, grandfather?”

            “It means that I will charge my blood with magic and fill this goblet with it and then Iain will do the same with that goblet. Then you will smell and possibly taste the contents of both so that you can chose which goblet to drink from.” He smiled warmly when she gave him a worried look. “I am not Shikarou. I know my okami bloodline starts with me because of how I became a kami. While I am proud of what I have accomplished with it and sometimes in spite of it. I will not be offended if you choose Iain’s blood tonight. This ceremony is for you and the child you carry. Your body knows which will help it more and you should listen to your body in this. It wants only what is best for you since it and you are the same being.”

            “Yuko said I have no ceremony like this associated with her bloodline. That’s why she isn’t here tonight, even though I asked her to be here. She refuses to watch me adulterate her bloodline.”

            Kerrik shrugged. “I’ve been wrong before. I’m certain she’s been wrong before. I think she’s wrong in this, but we’ll find out tonight.” He looked at Iain. “Do you know how to charge your blood with magic?”

            “Probably not in the way you’re thinking.”

            “I thought so.” He touched his forehead and pulled out a blue sphere. “This will show you how to do what I want.” He smiled for an instant when Iain didn’t move. “It has only the memories you need to learn this process and nothing else.”

            Iain touched the sphere with his fingertip and took it from Kerrik. “You know how little our teacher values blind trust and how thoroughly she can punish a student who shows it.” He glanced at Kasumi and pushed it into his temple. “The things we do for love.” He blinked once. “I can do this.”

            Kerrik’s teeth glinted in his smile. “Did you learn how to do it from me or did you already know how to do this but called it something else?”

            “I already knew something very similar, but not precisely like this.”

            Faelan’s ears flicked. “Can I learn how to do this, Father?”

            Kerrik nodded. “I’ll teach you the kami way that this is done later.”

            “Thank you, Father.”

            Kerrik picked up the knife. “I’ll go first.”

            Iain made a face. “If you go first, then I’ll have to touch my pure dragon blood with your icky furry Nipponese wolf cooties.”

            People laughed as Kerrik raised an eyebrow in Iain’s direction. “It’s my knife. Feel free to use your own blade, serpent.”

            “I will,” Iain replied tartly. Both men shared a chuckle.

            Faelan and Svetlana were staring at them both. “When did you two become friends,” Svetlana asked slowly.

            Kerrik glanced at her. “Daughter, while you have been following your brother in law’s isolationist policies, the world has continued on without you. As is its wont, it has moved towards making my life and Iain’s more complicated rather than less.” His voice was amused, which kept Svetlana’s blush to a minimum. “During that time, shared experiences let us become friends. Did Shikarou tell you and Faelan about meeting my mother and sister, which would be Faelan’s paternal grandmother and aunt?”

            Faelan’s ears flattened. “He neglected to mention that, but Helen did tell me what Iain told her.”

            “My other son is consistent if nothing else,” Kerrik shook his head slightly.

            “Don’t forget he’s annoying,” Ganieda said.

            “I can’t forget that,” Kerrik replied. “Iain has been my student for a while and we became friends during certain events that happened at the beginning. Also, during it, my mother, Kasserine, and my sister, Ava, came to live with Iain. When Shikarou came over with Poppet, they got to meet them.”

            Svetlana looked confusedly from Iain to Kerrik. “Why is she living with Iain?”

            Raven laughed. “Living with us would just be a huge pain in the ass, considering the situation.”

            Faelan’s jaw set and his ears went flat. “Will someone fucking just tell us what’s going on?”

            Kerrik chuckled. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist tweaking you two a little. Please accept my apology, but you’re not going to believe the truth.”

            Faelan folded his arms. “Father, I am well aware that you can’t lie. A lot of the truths you tell are unpleasant sometimes, but sometimes truth is that way. What is going on?”

            “Your father,” Iain interrupted the two men as they stared at each other, “and some of his wives have been trying to get me to marry into your family, if only so I’d have a reason to keep your secrets. Your mother and Magdalene have been and still are planning to introduce us to some of your sisters. Kerrik decided to introduce me to his sister, Ava, in the hopes that we would get along and, hopefully, marry. We did what he wanted, if not quite in the way that he expected. She was living with her mother, Kasserine, and she insisted that I court Kasserine too.” He smiled slightly. “You might want to close your mouth before moths fly into it.”

            Faelan pulled his mouth shut with a click. “What happened?”

            Iain grinned. “As I’m learning tends to happen around her, Ava got what she wanted.”

            Kerrik started laughing. “I’d say that was accurate enough.”

            “In about a year, Kasserine, Ava and I will go through a formal marriage ceremony,” Iain continued with only a glance at his teacher. “I believe they’re planning to send you and the rest of their suddenly extended family an invitation soon.”

            “The invitations are being designed now,” Kasumi added. “It is expected they will be sent out in three months, in such time that you don’t forget about the wedding but still allowing sufficient advance notice that you will not already have other plans. Both women are eager to meet the relatives that they knew nothing about until very recently.” She gave them an apologetic smile. “And also many of Iain’s other women have never had family and so they are enthusiastically aiding them in these endeavors. That is why you will be receiving formal, physical invitation cards as they are traditional in Texas.”

            Svetlana looked at Faelan. “Shikarou should have told us this.”

            “You’ll have to take the up with him,” Iain replied. “Now, if you don’t mind, Kerrik is going to open a vein and make Raven salivate.”

            Raven grinned. “And then you’ll do the same thing to Ganieda.”

            Heather looked at Giselle. “Theodora, Daya and Cassiopeia are taking over responsibility for the outer perimeter. Collapse the security element and bring Nishiko in so she can witness too.” A second later Nishiko landed next to Ayame as Heather turned to Kerrik. “We’re ready to proceed.”

            He nodded and put the goblet down on the table. “What you need to remember, Kasumi, is simple,” he said as he held his wrist over the goblet and drove the knife into the wrist just behind the hand and between the bones to hit the vein. Blood began dripping into the goblet, filling the air with the copper smell of fresh, clean blood, “You need to listen to your body in this. If you want Iain’s blood more than mine, choose it. If you want mine over Iain’s choose mine. If you want both equally, then take them both. The only wrong thing you can do tonight is refuse to listen to what your body is telling you.”

            “I will,” Kasumi sniffed the air deeply. “Your blood smells good, but it smells like fresh blood. There is nothing that draws me to it unduly.”

            Raven shook her head. “I’ll take it if you don’t,” she announced.

            “You’ll wait for permission,” Kerrik said curtly. He filled the goblet until it was almost full before pulling away. “Iain, first you must charge your blood. Only then fill the goblet.”

            Iain pulled the empty goblet over and closed his eyes for a second. He drew a small gold colored knife from under his shirt and held his wrist over the goblet so he could drive the knife into his wrist. Then he pulled the knife an inch up his arm, opening the vein so blood poured into the goblet, filling it in seconds. The blood stopped and he licked the knife clean before putting it on the table next to the goblet.

            Kerrik looked up. “Kasumi.” He broke off as her eyes slid closed and she leaned forward over Iain’s goblet to inhale deeply. When she exhaled, she hummed softly “I guess that answers that.”

            Her eyes snapped open and she turned bright red. “I am sorry, Grandfather.”

            “There’s nothing to apologize for, Kasumi,” Kerrik said gently. He sniffed the air and leaned forward slightly. “It does smell significantly different from my blood.”

            “It smells wonderful,” Kasumi’s voice was soft. “What must I do?”

            “We talked about this before. You drink the blood and focus on how it makes you feel. You may have a vision of a creature or something. If you do, focus on it and remember everything about it that you can. What’ll really be going on is the blood and the magic in it will be making changes within you, usually to make you more powerful in some way or to give you abilities that you did not possess before.”

            Kasumi sniffed the goblet again. “It does smell wonderful, but,” she leaned back, “it isn’t what I really want.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Oh?” He raised an eyebrow when she ignored him and turned to face Iain.

            Kasumi took a step towards her husband. “I want your blood to be as fresh and as powerful as I can get it,” she whispered. She ran a hand over her belly. “She deserves no less.”

            “Is this normal,” Faelan quietly asked Kerrik.

            “It may be for her,” Kerrik replied. “She wants the blood of her mate for her ceremony, and that can get complicated quickly.  And her bloodline isn’t ours, so predicting what she’ll do is pretty much impossible.”

            Iain held up his arm. “You’ll need the knife to reopen this.”

            Kasumi reached behind her and swept up the knife from the table without looking. Then she stepped in front of him and traced a line down his neck with her finger. “Here, where I first licked you. This is where I should drink.”

            Iain moved her finger on his neck. “Here the blood is closer to the surface. Are you going to use the knife or your teeth?”

            Her eyes widened slightly. “I would like to use my teeth, but they are not sharp and I will hurt you.”

            “Then you’ll have to use the knife,” Iain tilted his head to make his neck more accessible to her. “My blood is still charged.”

            Kasumi raised the knife and hesitated. “I do not wish to harm you.”

            Iain smiled at her. “This is an instance where you need to listen to your heart and not your head, Kasumi. Do what your heart tells you to do in this instance. If your refuse, there’s still the blood in the goblet. Just remember that this will not kill me.”

            Kasumi nodded and leaned forward as she drew the knife across his throat where her finger rested. She fastened her mouth to the cut even as blood tried to spurt. The knife fell to the ground as she wrapped her arms around him and drank deeply.

            Kerrik was watching the events curiously, his ears focused on them as a soft sucking sound filled the air. “You didn’t flinch.”

            “That knife is razor sharp,” Iain’s voice was calm. “The cut didn’t hurt much. Now it’s starting to burn a bit.” Kasumi’s arms tightened around him and he smiled slightly. “I didn’t say you needed to stop, my love. Drink your fill.”

            “As a professional,” Raven said almost idly, “with a lot of experience in giving neck wounds, in my opinion that cut went through both the carotid and jugular on that side. Kasumi is swallowing every time her cheeks bulge, which is about once a second. Why are you still conscious?”

            “Not human anymore, remember?”

            The Archmage blinked. “I hadn’t thought about it much.”

            He smiled slightly. “I don’t want you to. The last thing I want to do is walk around reminding people that I might be harder for them to kill.”

            Zareen grinned. “Cunning male.”

            “I do try.” He looked down at the top of his wife’s head. “I made some changes in case I had to take in Kerrik’s harem. You can’t take so much that I’ll pass out, much less go unconscious, so drink your fill.”

            Thank you.

            Ganieda looked at the goblet of Iain’s blood on the table and sighed softly. When Kerrik looked at her quizzically, she smiled weakly. “I am on duty and it’ll probably make me high.”

            “But you still want it.”

            “Of course I do.” Her ears flicked. “But I shan’t.”

            Kerrik’s eyebrows rose. “Did you get a word of the day calendar or something?”

            “It was a joining the harem present from one of the children. We pull a new word every day after breakfast.”

            “She’s finishing up,” Iain interrupted quietly.

            Kasumi lifted her head and licked Iain’s neck slowly before wrapping her arms around his neck and looking up at him. “My husband,” she said quietly as her eyes searched his. “My mate.”

            “Yes,” Iain replied.

            Kasumi sighed happily and nestled against him. “I am sorry to tell you that you were not my vision,” she said quietly. “I saw a dragon, but it was tatsu. I had hoped I would see you.”

            “I don’t think I need to be jealous of a vision,” Iain kissed her on the top of the head.

            “You do not.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “How do you feel, Kasumi?”

            “I am not sure how to describe it.”

            He nodded, giving Faelan a glance. “I want you to try something, Kasumi. Relax and let your mind flow freely. Now, I want you to just feel yourself. There is one word that will appear in your mind when you ask yourself how you are. What is that word?”

            “Whole,” Kasumi breathed softly. She turned her head to look at him and smiled. Her yokosuji, once light brown lines on her cheekbones, were now elaborate blue traceries that swept across her cheeks and disappeared into her hair towards her ears. “I feel complete.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “I can feel you’ve become stronger. Now the question is how much.”

            Kasumi smiled slowly. “Grandfather, I look forward to finding out how I have changed and how much more powerful I have become.” She looked back up at Iain. “But that is for later. Now I wish to spend time with my mate.”

            Kerrik picked up the goblet with Iain’s blood in it and poured it on the ground. “I would like to put you through some tests in a few days to see what may have changed.”

            “April will run another baseline tomorrow,” Kasumi said without looking away from Iain. “I will bring that data with me when we come for your tests.”

            “Thank you.” Kerrik picked up the goblet with his blood and handed it to Raven. “I’ll see you then.” He watched the Archmage drain the cup before taking her hand. “Iain, I’ll get with you and we’ll share notes on what has changed for her.” He looked at Faelan. “I’ll contact you tomorrow after lunch so you have tonight and tomorrow morning to consider any questions you may have.”

            “Thank you, Father.”

            Iain nodded without breaking Kasumi’s gaze. “Gotcha.” He smiled at her when Kerrik and Raven vanished, followed seconds later by Faelan and Svetlana. “What now?”

            “We go home, my mate. I,” she hesitated, “I want to wrap myself up in your scent and I want to wrap your body around me. I need you.”

            “I can carry them both together,” Ganieda muttered to Giselle and Heather. “It doesn’t look like she’s going to let him go any time soon.”

            “Then you carry them,” Giselle was watching her mistress. “We will follow.”

            Ganieda looked at Heather. “Well?”

            “Well what?”

            “Pandora put you in charge of security tonight.”

            Heather nodded. “She did. Sorry, this is still new. Zareen, scout the Sabine House exit and let us know if there are any problems.”

            “Go.” The Nightmare vanished. Clear.

            Ganieda put her hand on Iain’s back and the three of them teleported, followed an instant later by everyone else.


Iain Grey


Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & Maharani

Allison – Umbrea & Maharani Executive Officer

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & Beta

Silver – Pegaslut & Beta Executive Officer

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

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn – Dire Wolf

Chuck – Wolf Queen

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Joyce – Milktit

Irena – Sanctuary Goth

Scheherazade – Dread Wolf


Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Harem

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves


Dead Harem

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






     Dorothy: Duelist

     Meara: Duelist

     Regan: Duelist


     Hannah: Huntress

     Rebecca: Huntress


     Lisa: Milktit

     Sherrie:  Milktit

     Harriet: Milktit


     Olivia: Megami-Sama

     Seraphina: Megami-Sama

     Miriam: Angel

     Haley: Angel


     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare



     Anna: Ria

     Esmerelda: Ria