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Loose Threads

Ninety Three


            Stephen knew all but two people in the room and he ignored them to focus on his sister first. “Kozakura,” he said as he bowed.

            She bowed back. “I know that for you it has only been a short time, but for me it has been too long since I have seen you, Stephen, and I am sorry that you had to come here under such sorrowful circumstances.” She gestured around them. “I believe you know everyone here except Iain and Ganieda.”

            “Of course I know my family.” Stephen turned to face the unknown man and striped rabbit pokegirl wearing the knee length dress and held out his hand. “Stephen Wolf.”

            The man took it. “I’m Iain Grey and this is Ganieda. You have my condolences for your losses.”

            Stephen offered his hand to Ganieda and she smiled as she shook. “Ganieda Grey.”

            “My twee can’t identify your breed.”

            She nodded. “I don’t really have one. I’m a Splice.”

            “That makes sense then.” He turned to the next woman. “Mother.”

            Candace hugged him. “It’s so good to see you, my son.”

            “You too, Mother.” Still holding her, Stephen watched as Iain motioned to Ganieda and they headed for a door. “Where are you going?”

            “This is a family reunion,” Iain replied. “We’re not family and we’ll be in the next room.”

            “Thank you,” Stephen said. When they were gone, he released his mother. “Mother Bellona, Mother Elizabeth, Mother Kasumi.” He nodded to his brother. “Jamie. I’m sorry about Graeme.”

            Jamie looked surprised for an instant. “Graeme died years ago for me. What pisses me off is his death was for nothing since Celestine and her kids were killed with everyone else.”

            Stephen shook his head. “I still can’t believe it.”

            “Rest assured that it did indeed happen,” Kasumi said quietly. “Your uncle Faelan and Svetlana are the only survivors who were at the scene and they both almost died. They’re not here because they’re still in medical for extreme radiation poisoning. They’ll be under treatment for at least another week.”

            “Four days,” Selene said as she appeared. “With Her Majesty’s permission, I have asked Theodora to provide clan modern medical equipment and both Faelan and Svetlana were transferred to medics this morning, after Candace used her abilities on them.”

            “We Nurse Joys aren’t trained to treat wounds caused by nuclear weapons,” Candace said. “But I used all of my healing power on them, along with Irena, and we then we surgically removed a lot of the most damaged tissue. Growing it back is faster if it doesn’t have to be deconstructed at the same time since all of the available nanites and magic can be focused on just regeneration.” She looked at Kerrik. “Iain says you can heal both of them up in a trice now that you’re not busy running around reassuring our allies in Nippon that we’re not abandoning them, so if you wouldn’t mind?”

            “I’ll take a look at them in the morning,” Kerrik replied. “He’s probably right, but sometimes it can a be a bit tricky. If nothing else I should be able to increase the regeneration rate so they get up and around faster.”

            “Father never amended the inheritance,” Kozakura said. “That is why I asked Grandfather to bring you home, Stephen. You are the rightful heir to the throne of Haven. To ensure stability, you must take the throne, even if you decide not to keep it.”

            “You’re the queen.”

            “I am the Queen Regent, Stephen, and I am only keeping the kingdom stable until your arrival. Now that you are here, I can give that up to you.” She looked at Kerrik. “Do we need to have a public coronation?”

            “Most of the people came here from Caomh Sith, so they remember Stephen,” Kerrik said thoughtfully, “so the coronation itself can be private but he will have to be presented to the population immediately afterwards so they can see that the transition of power has taken place. And then he’ll have to take a tour of the kingdom so the populace can see him attending to their needs.”

            “Do I have to take the throne?”

            Kozakura’s ears flicked. “You must. You are the heir.”

            Stephen sighed. “Very well. You and Jamie were here while I wasn’t. Will you two advise me on what Father’s policies were and the political situation with the rest of the world?”

            Jamie and Kozakura nodded at the same time. “We will,” Jamie said.”

            “I would advise you to keep your father’s policies in place while you assess what you might and might not want to change,” Bellona said. She chuckled suddenly “At least I would advise that if I were still part of the kingdom.”

            “It is still wisdom,” Kozakura said. “And even though you are now Greys, we are not enemies and you are still family. Your advice is welcome,” she blinked. “I would welcome it. King Stephen may think differently.”

            Stephen smiled. “Would you advise me to listen to their wisdom?”

            “I do.”

            “Then I will.”

            “Always keep in mind,” Kozakura said, “in the end only you can make the decisions that guide the future of the kingdom. All we can do is advise you and carry out your will as you direct.”

            “Every time I picked up a scalpel, I had to acknowledge that I held a human life in my hands,” Stephen said quietly. “And since I believe that each life is as precious as the next, holding more than one will not be that different.”

            “Sometimes you will have to order people to their deaths,” Jamie said.

            “I did spend time with Father when I was growing up and was his designated heir,” Stephen replied, “and I did listen to him and watch him rule. Sometimes I will order people put to death and sometimes I will order people sent into danger where not all of them will survive.”

            “If either ever becomes too easy,” Kasumi’s voice was gentle, “that is when you must rethink whether you should abdicate the throne or not.”

            “It seemed easy enough for Father.”

            “It was,” Bellona replied. “But you are not him.”

            “Shikarou wasn’t human,” Kerrik was watching his grandson curiously. “He was not raised to value life as you do. You have kami blood but it has never been activated and you were raised as a human.”

            “Should I become a kami?”

            “You want to keep the throne,” Jamie asked.

            “I’ve just been coasting as a resident,” Stephen replied. “I know now that I don’t love medicine. It isn’t, as Grandfather would put it, my bliss. I have to take the throne and I don’t like just walking away from a challenge any more than you or Kozakura do. I will see if I can be a good king.”

            Elizabeth cleared her throat softly, making Kerrik look at the Vampire. “Heirs,” she said quietly.

            Kerrik chuckled. “True, but I think we can give Stephen a year before springing that on him.” He raised his voice slightly. “If you want to become a kami, I can guide your transformation just like I did Jamie’s.”

            “Jamie is a kami?”

            “It’s been several years,” Kozakura said. “Many things have happened. I have had Selene prepare you a precis of events that you will find significant for whenever you are ready for it.”

            “If it’s like any of Selene’s other downloads I’ll wait for tonight when I’m asleep. That’ll give my twee and my brain a chance to put everything where it belongs for easy access.” He looked at Kasumi. “Will you advise me too?”

            “I cannot.”

            Stephen looked surprised. “Why not?”

            Kasumi looked at Kerrik. “He does not know?”

            “It didn’t come up. It has been nearly a year and I didn’t think to mention it.”

            She touched her stomach. “Stephen, a year ago I divorced Shikarou and moved away from Haven. I have another husband now and this child is his and mine.”

            “Mother is married to Iain Grey,” Kozakura said. “He gave her refuge after she left here. After that, they fell in love and married.”

            Stephen rubbed his forehead with the knuckles of his fist. “This is all so fucked up.”

            “You have no idea,” Jamie said with a grin. “I would advise you to let me take you to get a good stiff drink and you can download that precis while we talk.”

            “Can I get more than one drink?”

            Jamie grinned again. “You’re the king. You can have the entire bottle if you want. I’m just not paying for it.”

            “Damn, you’re still a cheapskate.” Stephen turned to Kozakura. “Is there some royal account I can use to try and get my brother drunk?”

            Kozakura chuckled. “Tell me which pub you end up at and I will make the necessary arrangements. Jamie, is your harem going with you?”

            “I wasn’t planning on it. Stephen needs some time before he has to deal with Ginevra.”

            “Then there will be a security contingent waiting for you and Prince Stephen at the front door. Do not leave without them or I will inform Ginevra that you are out in public and unguarded.”

            Jamie grimaced and nodded. “All right.”

            Stephen turned to the other women in the room. “I understand you don’t live here anymore, Mother, but can you stay for a few days?”

            Candace frowned and reached out with her twee. Ninhursag, my son has asked that I stay for a few days. Would that be acceptable? I’m new and I don’t want to cause trouble by making this kind of decision on my own right now.

            Ninhursag didn’t seem surprised. We anticipated this request. I’ll tell April that you’ll be gone for, at most, three days. After that you’ll need to return, but you can go back to Haven later. Will the others be staying as well?

            Stephen didn’t ask them to, but if he does I’ll tell them to talk to you.

            Very good, Candace. Be well.

            Thank you and you as well. Candace nodded. “I can stay for three days at most. After that I have to return to the Sabine House.”

            “What’s so important there?”

            “I have a new job, Stephen, and I’m still learning it. I also have a new alpha and she and I are still working out our relationship.”

            “They do not have a Tamer program like here,” Kozakura said curiously. “What is this job?”

            “I’m taking Siobhan’s place as the Chief Medical Officer for the clan. I’m still not entirely sure what the job entails, but I think I’m going to be pretty busy.” She smiled. “And I get to return to regularly practicing medicine, which I’ll admit I’ve missed.”

            “This,” Stephen hesitated, “Iain is your new Tamer, right?”

            “He is.”

            “Selene, tell him to come here.”

            “Yes, Your Highness. He is on his way.” A moment later the door opened and Iain returned with Ganieda close behind him. Stephen frowned. “You don’t need her here.”

            “With all due respect, Your Highness,” Iain replied, “my guards go where I go.”

            “I don’t think that’s really necessary. We’re not your enemies,” Stephen said coolly.

            “Again, with all due respect, Kozakura authorized me to have guards here. It is your right to change that policy, however.”

            “Then I’d like to change that policy.”           

            Iain bowed slightly. “As you wish, Highness.” He looked at Candace. “I’ll send someone for you in three days. Elizabeth, if you can’t or aren’t willing to carry Bellona when you leave, Bellona can let Ninhursag know and she’ll send someone.” He turned to Kasumi. “I’ll see you at magical school this afternoon.” Then he turned to Kozakura. “Be well, Kozakura, Stephen, Jamie and Kerrik.”

            Stephen frowned. “What are you doing?”

            “Leaving. Kozakura allowed me to have a guard here because she trusts me and understands I’m supposed to have a guard everywhere. You rescinded that and she didn’t override you. That’s fine, but while you can prevent me from having a guard here, you cannot force me to not have a guard here and still stay here, so I’m going home.”

            Stephen rubbed the bridge of his nose to stop his sudden headache. “Hold on a second.”

            “I’ll give you two minutes. After that, unless I get to keep my guard, I’m gone.”

            “Iain-san,” Kozakura protested, “please give Stephen a chance. He does not yet know you.”

            Iain nodded. “True. But he needs to understand one thing immediately. I am the Grey. I am a head of state too. I do not answer to him and I am not at his beck and call, and neither is anyone else in my clan. That includes his mother. Candace wanted to see her son and so did his other mothers, which is why I told April to release all of them and not just Candace. It’s also why Ganieda and I left the room to give you some family alone time.” His eyes fixed on Stephen’s. “Then you summoned me back in here and started telling me what I was going to do. That’s not only rude, it isn’t happening. In an attempt to be polite, instead of telling you to do something that’s physically impossible unless you have bones made of rubber, I decided to remove myself from the situation.”

            “Stephen.” Elizabeth had her hands on her hips and was giving him an annoyed glare. “Stop being a prat. Iain is not your enemy and he didn’t kill your father or anyone else here.”

            Stephen blinked in the face of her annoyance. He looked at his brother. “Jamie?”

            “She’s right, you are being a bit of a prat. If Father hadn’t disliked Iain so much, he might be alive today.” Jamie grimaced. “That does not mean that Iain had anything to do with his death. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

            “What does that mean?”

            Kozakura moved to stand next to Stephen. “Stephen,” she said calmly. “Iain-san foresaw the attacks on us. He knew that Father would not believe that humans would dare to strike at us and so he hid a nuclear damper inside the palace. Selene discovered it and Father, because Iain-san had placed it there, ordered it dismantled and removed. He refused to replace it either. If it had been left alone, Father and everyone else would still be alive.”

            Stephen frowned again. “What was between him and Father?”

            “Shikarou felt that Iain had unfairly bested him in some competitions that cost him face and lost the kingdom some valuable resources.” Bellona was watching her son sympathetically as she spoke. “He was very upset about these events until right before his death, when had a sudden change of heart. But the damper had been disassembled long before that day and Kozakura was right when she said he didn’t believe that mere humans would dare attack him, and us.”

            Stephen eyed Iain. “Were you and Father enemies or rivals?”

            Iain chuckled. “I didn’t rate high enough on Shikarou’s list of important people to be either of those things until right at the end. He didn’t consider humans very often, unless it was someone he was fucking.”

            Stephen nodded. “True.” He shook his head. “What did you steal?”

            “Ygerna. Her books. Kasumi. Her knowledge and experience, leaving the school without a headmistress. I also got both of their harems, who are all talented and sexy women. I even got Caspa to cough up some books from the library, which Shikarou thought was completely impossible.”

            “You also received my modest library of magical knowledge,” Kasumi said quietly.

            “That too. And I’ve looked over your library and, while small, you did an excellent job selecting quality items for it.” She smiled gratefully.

            “Father was also upset to discover that I was pursuing Iain-san as a potential mate after I learned he had become a spirit folk and was no longer human,” Kozakura said with an embarrassed cant to her ears. “He felt that I had shamed him in doing so.” She looked down at the floor and spoke in a small voice. “He was right.”

            “And you were punished for it,” Iain said firmly. “Let it go.”

            “Yes, Iain-san.” Her ears flicked. “However, I still have three months of punishment remaining.”

            “I haven’t forgotten. I let you leave because of the attack and because Haven needed its regent. When Stephen is on the throne and things have settled out I’ll talk with him about you finishing your sentence.”

            She nodded. “That would be the proper course, Iain-san, and thank you.”

            “What is her punishment,” Stephen asked curiously.

            “Your Highness, Shikarou agreed that having Kozakura and Nejiko be normal people and living among my family and clan would teach her humility and to better respect those who are different from the kami or nobility of Haven. She still had three months remaining of a six month sentence.”

            “Why do you call me Your Highness but you don’t call Kozakura by any titles?”

            “Iain-san is the same rank as I am and currently outranks you as a prince,” Kozakura said. “He is the leader of his clan and equal or, according to him, higher ranking than any king. It is true that his clan is much more powerful than it appears and they are much more active and influential in the world than Haven has been.”

            “What’s more important is that I don’t know you very well,” Iain smiled slightly. “Kozakura is my friend and she asked me not to use any titles with her after I forbade her to call me Clan Leader or the Grey all of the time. With you, however, since I don’t know you, I decided to be safe and fell back on the whole idea of flies and honey.”

            Stephen chuckled. “Buttering up the future potentate is usually a sound plan. I’m sorry I was a prat about your guard.”

            “It’s actually a reasonable caution to always keep in mind,” Iain disagreed. “The vast majority of people cannot be trusted and you should always strip league people of their guards before you meet with them. It reminds them of whose land this is. Additionally, those nuclear weapons were delivered by teleport capable pokegirl suicide bombers, which means they might try again with more conventional explosives or even another nuke if they think they can decapitate Haven’s leadership. As for me, if I harmed you, your mothers sleep with me and they could get revenge way too easily. Understand that they are new to my clan and harem and so they’re going to be very busy for a while, but I don’t see why they can’t come visit when they are free. You can also come and visit us, but I’d suggest warning us beforehand, so Candace isn’t in Israel or somewhere else that’s pretty far away when you show up.”

            “I would recommend making an ally of the Grey Clan,” Kozakura said. “Father’s policy of pretending that the Greys didn’t exist when he felt like it was arbitrary and inconsistent with the fact that they are as powerful as we are. His policy was based on personal dislike of the Grey and ignored the reality that their fortunes and ours are intertwined if only because we both refuse to kau tau to the leagues.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind,” Stephen said slowly. He turned to Jamie. “What’s your opinion?”

            “I’ve been busy putting out brushfires locally,” Jamie confessed. “Kozakura is our external political expert now that Bellona isn’t part of the kingdom. I tend to handle the internal issues.”

            “Ok, what’s your advice on internal issues?”

            “If you’re going to be the king, you’re going to have no choice but to have a harem of at least one girl and I recommend you bond her later today.”

            Stephen looked surprised. “I’ve avoided that so far because of medical school, not because I didn’t want a harem. Who is she?”

            “An Elfqueen named Brigid. Yesterday she became the new ruler of the Queendom and you need to bond her before she gets more ambitious than she already is.”

            “She’s ambitious?”

            “All pokegirls are ambitious,” Jamie explained. “Up until yesterday, Gwyneth was the ruler and Brigid was one of her captains. Last night, however, Kozakura arranged for Gwyneth to be kidnapped by a rival Queendom before she could rebel against the throne of Haven.”

            “Was that a possibility?”

            Jamie shook his head. “No, it wasn’t a possibility. It was going to happen. Father suppressed Gwyneth’s ambitions after making her queen and as soon as he died, she began executing plans that had obviously been ready for a while. She wanted to be independent and nothing was going to stand in her way.”

            Bellona wrapped an arm around Jamie and hugged him. “You did pay attention. I’m so proud of you.”

            “Madison and Caitlin made sure I had no choice. They went to Ginevra and explained my not knowing the political realities of the lands we were living in would eventually get me killed.” He shrugged. “I think they might have slightly overexaggerated the threat, but Gin didn’t care and, after thinking about it, I realized she was right. And after Grandfather made me spirit folk, if I let someone kill me, that kind of wastes the effort I made to become immortal.”

            “Not to mention you’d probably die before I consented to make her immortal,” Kerrik noted with a smile. “Which means she’d have to get by with only having longevity.”

            “I’m sure that was a factor,” Jamie said dryly. “But it doesn’t make her arguments invalid.”

            “If you’re going to do this right,” Iain spoke quietly, “Since it looks like she’ll be taking on the role of Secretary of State for a while, I’d like to send Kozakura a list of people I’d strongly suggest inviting to the coronation, even if they can’t make it, although I’d provide transportation if they wanted to come. Most of them will be heads of state of the so called rebellious countries, but there will be some other people I think you should let watch your coronation. It’ll be a good sign of solidarity and let them know you aren’t going to start bombarding them too.” He looked at Bellona. “I’d like to get your input before I send it since you may know some people that should be added that I’m not aware of.”

            Bellona gave him a delighted smile. “I will be glad to help, Iain.”

            “I will be waiting for that list,” Kozakura said. “Please send it as quickly as you can.”

            Stephen was eyeing Iain curiously. “Kozakura said you’re not human. You don’t show any of the signs of being a kami.”

            Iain chuckled. “That would be because I’m not a kami. While I am considered by some to be spirit folk, I am a dragon.”

            “Iain-san is tatsu,” Kozakura stated firmly.

            “Shikarou thought he was doragon,” Kasumi noted.

            Stephen looked at Iain. “What are they talking about?”

            “Semantics. A tatsu is a Nipponese or Chinese dragon and a doragon is what they call a western or European dragon.”

            “But you weren’t born a dragon or half dragon, right?”

            “No. Originally I was pure blooded human.”

            Stephen raised an eyebrow. “How does a pure blooded human become a dragon?”

            Iain shrugged. “I didn’t volunteer for the transformation and I’m not sure exactly what was done to me, so I don’t know.”

            “You didn’t volunteer? Someone made you a dragon against your will?”

            “Exactly. And there’s no known way for me to go back to being the Iain that I was. Fortunately, I am coming to terms with what happened and my ladies like the fact that I’ve become more powerful.” Beside him Ganieda grinned and nodded once without ceasing her scanning of their surroundings. “And I can’t answer the ultimate question about something like that either way, suggesting I like it too.”

            “What question?”

            “If I could go back, know what I know now and had the power to prevent or change this, would I? This has been both good and bad and so I’m not sure what my decision would be if I ended up at that point.”

            “I would hope that my husband would keep my feelings on the subject and the feelings of the rest of the harem in mind if he could remake that decision,” Kasumi said with a smile.

            “Doesn’t that mean I don’t get to change anything?”

            She chuckled. “It means exactly that.”

            Stephen was watching them. “You’re happier than I remember, Kasumi, aren’t you?”

            “I am, Stephen. Both your father and I were dreadfully unhappy about our relationship for several years towards the end of our marriage. It was quite a relief once it was over.”

            “Not for Shikarou,” Bellona said. “He was furious for months after you left.”

            “I believe,” Kasumi shook her head slightly, “that if you think carefully about his actions at the time you will find that he was more upset over the fact that I, a traditional Nipponese woman, had the temerity to leave him and less over the fact that we were no longer married.”

            “I think she’s right,” Elizabeth said. “Of course, then he found out where you went and that just pissed him off even more.”

            “He was furious with Iain-san,” Kozakura said. “So was I. I wanted to kill him for what he’d done to our family.”

            Stephen frowned. “What made you go from wanting to kill him to chasing him as a prospective husband?”

            Kozakura chuckled. “Iain-san tricked me. He put me in a position where I could not outmatch him and then goaded me into attacking him. When I did, he defeated me handily. He even knocked me unconscious when I did. It was a clever stratagem and showed me how superior he was to any of the kami I had been evaluating in Nippon.”

            “Our male is cunning,” Ganieda said with a laugh.

            “He is,” Kozakura agreed. “Mother, I need to speak with you about something later, once I am no longer the Queen Regent. This meeting must be formal.”

            Kasumi looked surprised. “As you wish, Kozakura.”

            “Thank you, Mother.”

            Selene appeared. “My Queen, your appointment with the envoy from the Tropic League is in fifteen minutes. Do you wish me to push the meeting back?”

            “No, Selene. Jamie will take charge of Stephen and Mother Candace while I meet with Mr. Devilien.”

            Selene nodded. “Yes, my Queen. The security team is already waiting for them in the lobby for when they go drinking and I will take care of their bills.”

            “Thank you, Selene.”

            Iain frowned. “What does Tropic want?”

            Kozakura smiled coldly. “Devilien will beg me to stop bombarding Tropic. I will enjoy his begging before I tell him that it will continue for a while yet. I will let him make another appointment with me so he may beg even more later.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked and he glanced at Iain, who shrugged. “She’s your granddaughter and comes by it honestly.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked again as he burst out laughing. “True,” he finally managed to get out while still laughing. “She is most definitely that.”

            Iain rubbed his eyes. “Well, I’m afraid that I have to go soon and I wanted to check something with everyone.” His lips tightened. “Does anyone know where Kriton Mitsotakis is?”

            Kozakura shook her head. “He disappeared several days ago after his security contingent was ambushed at his new apartment. I thought you had done it.”

            “I wish. I’m going to find him and I’m going to skin him slowly, probably with a dull piece of flint.” His voice dropped to a growl. “Nobody gets to brag about killing my family. When I’m done with him they’ll talk about him for centuries, and that’s only if I don’t have his skin tanned and turned into a trophy.” He smiled, but it was the smile of a hungry tiger. “And then, since I’ll have his body, I might just go to the Lands of the Dead, bring him back and keep killing him for a few months.”

            “What do you know,” Kerrik asked.

            Iain took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “His bodyguards were slaughtered and he vanished, along with his relatives. A rescue team that went after him was ambushed too and wiped out. It makes me think that the bodyguard thing was staged and he’s living the high life on some beach somewhere.” Iain shook his head. “If that is the case I need to bring it to a screeching fucking halt.”

            “Pandora won’t like your plan,” Kasumi said quietly.

            “No, she won’t.” Iain shrugged. “I think that for this I’ll be willing to live with her displeasure until she gets over it.”

            “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have him,” Candace added.

            “And therein lies the crux of the matter. I can’t do shit to him if I can’t get my hands on him.” He took another deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Since I can’t find him, I thought I’d ask if any of you knew where he was. Guess I’ll keep looking. Your Highness, did you want Bellona and Elizabeth to stay too?”

            Stephen thought about it for a moment before shaking his head. “I’ll see them later. I just wanted to see me mum again. She can go too, if she wants to.”

            “I’ll stay,” Candace said firmly. “But only for a few days at most. Kozakura is right. I don’t live here anymore and if I’m not careful I’ll slip back into the role I had when I did. And then I might disagree with at least one of you on some change you will want to make.”

            “I do value your advice, Mother.”

            “Do you intend to follow through and become the King of Haven?”

            “I do.”

            “Then do what Jamie suggested and bring Brigid into your harem tonight. She will or does control the army and you need that backing as soon as possible, before she starts getting the same ideas that Gwyneth had.”

            “She’s right,” Bellona moved to stand next to Elizabeth. “It’s what I would advise as well, although I’d also suggest you get another pokegirl too and make her your alpha to be a foil for Brigid and her attempts to control you.”

            Stephen held up his hands in surrender. “I hear you.” He looked at Iain. “Are you going to let them run roughshod over you too?”

            “I’m going to ask for their advice, yes. In fact, the clan is structured so I have an advisory council made up of some of the women in the clan. That helps to keep the clan’s needs uppermost as opposed to my wants. Nobody here is stupid and I expect that all three of these ladies will be on it eventually.”

            Stephen frowned. “What about Kasumi?”

            “I am already a member of the General Staff,” Kasumi said. “With Iain’s permission, you should visit so you can see how we do things before you make any major changes once you’re the king.”

            “Permission granted,” Iain said.

            “I’ll do that,” Stephen promised. “Can you stay too?”

            “I can stay for today.”

            Iain frowned. “Does that mean you won’t be teaching today’s magic class?”

            A startled look crossed Kasumi’s face to vanish. “I had forgotten that I was teaching today. I do wish to remain here with my children.”

            “Don’t worry, you stay here and do family bonding. I’ll get a substitute.”

            Kasumi frowned. “Who, Ygerna?”

            “I said don’t worry about it. I haven’t taken a turn in the box yet so I’ll teach.”

            Kasumi’s eyebrows shot up. “You?”

            Iain chuckled. “That’s not a supportive and believing tone.” Kasumi blushed slightly as he continued. “If you remember, I’ve proven I’m as well trained as anyone in formal magic. You ladies just haven’t realized that it means that I could teach what I’ve learned too. This give me an opportunity to do just that. I think I’ll teach some of the variants of regular spells we all know. It’ll be fun.”

            Kasumi’s eyes narrowed. “I will not be there.”

            “That’s all right. You can catch it again when I’m allowed to teach next, probably in about a year or two.”

            Kasumi eyed him with an unfriendly look in her eyes. “You are being unfair.”

            “Everyone taking it looks forward to this class and it has benefited a great many people who are mages in the clan. You just decided to abrogate your responsibility to teach, even though you volunteered when the schedule was made up. This is an unusual situation and so it’s understandable that you’d want to do something else and remain here. But the rest of us aren’t staying here and I thought I’d find a way to make sure the class took place. The notice is a bit short to ask anyone to put together a formal class and I thought we’d do something not on the regular agenda, which I can teach.”

            “You could move the class to another day.”

            “The only days we all have available are the regularly scheduled ones,” Ganieda pointed out. “If we skip today we’ll have to wait until Thursday.”

            “I feel you are punishing me for wanting to remain here today.”

            “I can see why you’d think that,” Ganieda said. “But I’m sure it only looks that way because that’s what this is. It’s ok to want to stay here with your family, but you’re ditching us to do it.”

            “I don’t feel that I’m punishing Kasumi,” Iain disagreed. “I’m taking advantage of an opportunity that she has provided. Now stop teasing her, Ganieda.” He bowed to Stephen. “Sorry, but I have to go and Kozakura has a meeting with Tropic.” He took Ganieda’s hand and they vanished.

            Kasumi hissed. “Nishiko!”

            The Archmage appeared. “Ma’am?”

            “Stephen, I will be back tomorrow.” Kasumi took Nishiko’s hand. “Bellona and Elizabeth need to return before dinner. Nishiko, take me to the Sabine House.”

            “Mother,” Kozakura called. “Are you going to teach this class?”

            “I will not, I will let Iain teach but I will attend. He was attempting to torment me with the fact that I want to know what he has learned, but he has never volunteered to teach before.”

            “Did it work,” Stephen asked.

            “Yes,” Kasumi growled. “Nishiko.” They vanished.

            Kozakura’s ears flicked. “Theodora, could I have a moment of your time?”

            Theodora appeared. “What is it, Kozakura?”

            “Is Mother angry at Iain-san?”

            Theodora smiled. “She is. It happens from time to time.”

            “I thought she loved him.”

            “She does.”

            Kozakura’s ears canted sideways. “I do not understand. She never behaved this way towards Father.”

            “Kasumi is upset because she loves Iain and she knows he loves her. He gives her the room to express frustration and anger, which she was never allowed to do here. Shikarou would never have put up with it from her since he knew she was a proper Nipponese woman and expected her to behave according to his preconceptions, especially in public. Iain instead refuses to give in to her desires all of the time and that frustrates her. But she can express that frustration with us because we love her.”

            “That’s excellent,” Kerrik started chuckling. “She needs rattled once in a while. It’ll do her good.” He tossed a small bag at Jamie. “My contribution to the drinking.”

            Jamie caught it and grinned at the clink of gold. “Thanks, Grandfather!” He looked at Candace, Bellona and Elizabeth. “Are you ladies in or not?”

            “I want to see my sons,” Elizabeth said. “And since I can’t drink and someone has to be responsible, yes.” She jerked her head towards Candace and Bellona. “They’re coming too.”

            Candace hugged Kerrik. “Thank you for bringing Stephen home, even if this was a horrible reason for him to have to return.”

            “Take what joy you can from this, Candace,” Kerrik replied. “While this was a rather extreme example, it is very probable that you will outlive more people that you care about. If all you do is wallow in the grief, you’ll never get past it. Mourning your dead is all well and good, but never forget the survivors in your grief.” He bowed to Kozakura. “Call if you need me.”

            Kozakura bowed back. “Thank you, Grandfather.” She watched him vanish. “Mothers, please keep a close watch on my brothers. Someone might realize how few members of the royal family there are and try to make more with them if they get drunk tonight.” She smiled warmly at Jamie. “Remember my warning about informing Ginevra if you step out of line.”

            Jamie grabbed his brother’s arm. “Let’s get out of here before she puts you on the throne now and we have to have the alcohol brought here.”

            Kozakura watched everyone leave before glancing at Nejiko. “Do you think that Devilien will actually beg?”

            Nejiko grinned as she opened the door. “I would be pleased to see that, Your Majesty.”

            “As would I. Let us see if he does.”


            Iain sank down on the couch and smiled as Lucifer leaned against him. “All right, Miriam, what did you have to speak with me about and why are you going to be calling me Iain from now on?” He grunted when his lap was suddenly filled with a solid weight as Olivia and Seraphina immediately took advantage of their parent’s unguarded laps to find seats in them. Miriam was sitting in a comfortable chair that faced them.

            Miriam took a deep breath. “Theodora, Daya, I am invoking privacy and that does include you, but I give you permission to remember this and discuss it only with each other, me, Seraphina, Olivia, Iain and Lucifer.”

            Iain felt his eyebrows crawling to the top of his forehead and glanced at Lucifer, who looked as mystified as he felt. Theodora and Daya appeared. “We hear you,” Theodora said. She looked at Iain. “Is she old enough to invoke privacy?”

            “I believe she can,” Lucifer said quietly.

            “I’ll allow it,” Iain added.

            Theodora bowed formally. “Under the given conditions, privacy is invoked.”

            “Thank you,” Miriam said. “If I had known what was coming in Austin I would have warned you. Please remember that. All we knew was that if we went to the birthday party we would be with Mother again. Haley really misses her so she wanted to go. I need to stay here and so I struck Sofia so Lucifer would ground me. I will apologize to Sofia tomorrow.”

            Iain was staring at the young Angel as goose bumps shivered up his body at her words. “You had a premonition about Austin?”

            “I knew that whoever went would be with our Mother again.” Miriam replied. “That is all I knew. I also knew that you would not believe me if I told you.”

            “I want you to come to me with any other premonitions you may have or will have in the future,” Lucifer stated firmly. “I will believe them.”

            “I will.” Miriam looked at Iain. “We call you a good bad man. That means you are a bad man. I have seen that you will need me to keep from becoming a truly bad man.”

            Lucifer gave Iain a curious glance before returning her attention to Miriam. “Show me, young lady.”

            Miriam looked surprised. “You can see other’s premonitions?”

            “You will find that many Megami Sama have powers that Angels do not. Some of us can see what others see and I am one of those.” Lucifer slid Seraphina out of her lap into Iain’s and got up. “Stand and give me your hand.” Miriam hopped to her feet and thrust her tiny hand into Lucifer’s. “Now see your premonition again and I will watch it with you.” Her eyes began to glow softly.

            Olivia looked up at Iain. “Daddy, you should do this.” Beside her, Seraphina nodded her agreement. “We don’t want you to become a bad bad man.”

            Iain kissed her on the forehead. “Why do I think you are trying Celestial manipulation on me?”

            “We love you, Daddy,” Seraphina kept her voice low. “You need our love to keep from listening to the dark things that live inside you, but we cannot be with you forever. One day we will need our own males and have missions that we must perform.”

            “That particular observation at this particular moment doesn’t make me feel any better,” Iain said wryly.

            “It doesn’t make it wrong either, Daddy,” Olivia insisted. “We love you and we will always love you, even when we are with our partners and far away from here. But far away love cannot help keep you safe.”

            “Do you see my future too?”

            “No, Daddy,” Olivia said. “Trying to see your future is like trying to look into a thunderhead. All you see is darkness that is interspersed with many multiple blinding flashes of lightning and deafening thunder.”

            Iain didn’t intend to say it, but it slipped out. “Good.”

            “She is right,” Lucifer said as her eyes stopped glowing. “Miriam will be able to help you not do things that would hurt the Celestials in your family and imperil your soul, as well as kill a whole bunch of people who will not deserve death at your hand. This will not happen for many years and she will be an adult,” she hesitated, “and harem.”

            “That is why you cannot be my father,” Miriam said. “You would never take one of your daughters into your harem.”

            “This is probably not going to work.” Iain said quietly. “I already think of you as my daughter. That and I don’t normally choose my women years in advance.” He snorted and muttered to himself, “I don’t normally choose my women.”

            “It will not be easy,” Miriam replied. “But you must stop thinking of me that way. And you are strong, so you will.”

            Iain looked at Lucifer. “You’re going to help her, aren’t you?”

            “Without Eve, I have little choice. You will not easily accept another Celestial into your life from outside our family, but Pandora will not be available at the time to help me keep you safe.”

            Iain felt the cold wash into his heart. “Her too?”

            “No, she will not be dead, Iain. She will merely be unavailable. Miriam’s sight is not precise, but I think it’ll have something to do with her children.” Lucifer shrugged. “And even if she were available, she is often not able to sway you to rightness. She is easily the least subtle amongst your Celestials.” She smiled slightly. “Without intending insult, I do not consider Lynn or Scheherazade to be true Celestials and do not count them amongst our ranks.”

            “But you count a five year old pain in the butt?”

            “Each Celestial has a mission, Iain. Most do not get theirs until they are much closer to adulthood, but Miriam has been chosen for a worthy mission that will last her entire life.”

            “I’m her mission.” Iain’s voice was completely uninflected.

            “This is not something that we choose,” Lucifer said. “It is something that happens to us, Iain.”

            “Like Eve’s dying? Was that part of her mission?”

            “Eve’s mission was the same as mine, that being to fight the evils of the world. It is a common mission among Celestials. It is what made me first disobey and then later set myself against James Scott.”

            “So Miriam’s mission is not fight evil, but to fuck it into submission?” He slid Olivia and Seraphina out of his lap before getting to his feet. “I need to take a walk and do some thinking before I completely lose it.”

            Lucifer nodded. “This won’t help, but I’m not very happy with the situation either.”

            “I don’t really care how you feel right now. You’re going along with this and you’re not the person who is going to have fuck the little girl who often came to you to be held because in your arms was the only place she felt safe.”

            “I will be a woman at that point, Iain,” Miriam protested softly.

            “Yeah, I need that walk.”

            Lucifer nodded. “Will you be returning tonight?”

            Iain stopped and took a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “That’s right, tonight is your night.” He took another deep breath. “I will.” Then he slipped out the door and headed downstairs to the basement. April?

            Iain? Is something wrong?

            I’m going to Nightraven’s. If you intend to be present for the transition, I’m going to my lab first. He stepped through the doorway onto the Theodora and jogged for the tunnel to his lab. I’m a minute out. I’ll wait for you to keep you out of trouble with Ninhursag, but not for long.

            He felt the spurt of surprise over their bond. They usually discussed his schedule after the general staff meetings. When he was next going to his teacher’s was always part of that process. When?

            As soon as I get changed.

            I’ll be right there. Please don’t leave until we talk.

            When she showed up, three minutes later, her hair was dripping. She wore only a pair of panties and had a towel draped over her shoulders. She carried a bundle of clothes that she tossed on the bed before turning to him as she took the towel and began drying her hair. “What happened?”

            “I need some time to think some things through before I go back to Lucifer’s room tonight and this way I have the time I need to do it right.”

            “Did you and Lucifer have a fight?”

            “No. I got the distinct impression that even if we did fight, nothing was going to change.” He chuckled as he reached for his cloak. “This is the first time I’ve really looked forward to going.”

            April gave him a worried look. “I don’t like you wanting to leave us.”

            “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

            “Are you going to see her?”

            “I don’t have any choice in the matter. If I go there I have to go and be her student. I won’t be gone more than a few minutes no matter what.”

            April tossed the towel on the bed and ran her fingers through her still damp hair. “What happened with Lucifer?” Her tone told him that she was asking in her official role as the beta.

            As a matter of policy, Iain tried to be brutally honest when he was talking formally with his beta. “Right after the attack, Miriam announced she wasn’t going to call me Father anymore. Tonight I found out why. She’s had some premonition that she’s supposed to grow up and join the harem in order keep me from doing something terrible later. So she can’t be my daughter anymore since I don’t swing that way. That way I can more easily accept her into my bed. Lucifer, Olivia and Seraphina took Miriam’s side.”

            April stared at him in shock. Then her eyes filled up with concern. “Oh, Iain. I really don’t know what to say.”

            “Neither do I, which is why I decided I had to take a walk. Then, as I was leaving, Lucifer reminded me that tonight is her night. God only knows what kinds of shockwaves it would send through the harem if I refused someone on her night, so I had to figure out a way to get some time to think while still not sticking my arm into rotating equipment and hoping it doesn’t get mangled.”

            “Go to the hunting lodge instead.”

            “I promised not to take unscheduled visits there, remember?”

            “Can I release you from that promise for this?”

            “I made that promise to the entire general staff. They’d all have to allow it and I’m not going to bother them for something that’s not an emergency at this time of night.”

            April sat down on the bed. “Fuck.”

            “Pretty much.”

            “If you could go to the lodge instead, would you go there?”

            “Probably. I need a few hours of not being here more than anything else. The year of servitude I have to do to get it isn’t going to help that. But it’s my only option right now. At this particular instant in time, I am not fit to be company for Lucifer.” He grunted softly and whacked himself in the forehead. “Oh, this is covered under privacy and I probably shouldn’t have told you anything about it. Miriam invoked before the big explanation.”

            “Damnit. Ninhursag needs to know about this.”

            “And you need to wear nothing but panties more often.”

            April looked surprised before laughing. “Are you saying nice things about my breasts, sir?”

            “I thought they were awesome when you first ‘accidentally’ showed them to me. That hasn’t changed. And I’m saying nice things about all of April, not just her breasts.”

            “I love you so much, Iain. It’s why I want to take a sharp knife to Lucifer right now.”

            “Irish women and their weird ways of showing love,” Iain said. She just grinned at him. He sighed. “It hurt that she immediately supported Miriam. She is,” he grunted, “was my daughter?”

            “You are not a pedophile,” April said gently. She got up and wrapped her arms around him. “You’ve never been one. I remember how conflicted you were about Irena when she joined us. Yes, Lucifer is being an idiot in this. It shows once again that nobody is perfect.” She looked up at him. “If she isn’t your daughter, in a decade, when Miriam becomes an adult, could you accept her?”

            “It’s eleven years, not ten. She’s five.” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, much less in eleven years.”

            “Tomorrow you have a full schedule,” April pointed out with a smile. “I’ve seen it.”

            “No, that’s what I’ll be doing the day after I get back. Tomorrow I’ll be at Nightraven’s place and I have no idea what I’ll be doing.”

            April let him go and stepped back. “You’re still going.”

            “I’m still upset at Lucifer and I need some time to calm down before I go back to her rooms.”

            “Ninhursag is going to want to know why you suddenly left for Nightraven’s. You’ve never done this before. What can I tell her?”

            “You can’t tell her anything.”

            April smiled suddenly. “I’ll tell her to ask Lucifer.”

            “It’ll be my privacy violation,” Iain pointed out.

            April smiled again. “Why are you going to Nightraven’s so abruptly? Now tell me to ask Lucifer why you ‘re doing it.”

            Iain chuckled. “Clever minx.”

            “Tell me.”

            “Ask Lucifer why I’m going.”

            “I will.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him gently. “Be careful.”

            “Always, my love.” He kissed her quickly and stepped away as she let him go. Then the shadows came out from the wall to swallow him up and he was gone.

            April counted silently and he returned before she got to five. She waited until he dropped his cloak on the bed before smiling. “How long were you gone?”

            “Twelve years.” He draped his arms around her and pulled her in for a kiss. “And I have missed you.”

            April giggled and batted at his hands when they slid down to squeeze her ass. “You are somewhere else tonight and with someone else, mister. You don’t get to make me all hot and wet and then leave.”

            “I return to an almost naked girl in my room.” Iain let her go. “What was I supposed to think?”

            “You keep thinking that for endurance testing tomorrow,” April said with a grin. Her smile faded. “Were you on the road a lot this time?”

            “I spent all the time either at the tower or running short errands.”

            “Were you able to think about what Miriam wants?”

            “I did.”

            April waited for a moment before her eyes narrowed. “Well?”

            He chuckled. “A lot can happen in eleven years. I’m not going to worry about what a five year old thinks she wants until she’s an adult and presents herself to me as a candidate for consideration to be added to the harem. And if that actually does happen, then I’ll think about it. In the short term it means that if she insists on not being my daughter, she isn’t, and she doesn’t get any of the perks of being my daughter. Maybe she’ll decide it isn’t as much fun as she thought it would be.”

            April nodded slowly. “That’s not a bad way to approach this. What about Lucifer supporting her.”

            “Like I said, a lot can happen in eleven years. If I get upset at a Celestial for going all Celestial on me, well that’s me being pretty silly. If I didn’t want that to happen, I should have never let any Celestials anywhere near me.” He shrugged. “I probably shouldn’t have let that happen, but I did and it’s too late for buyer’s remorse, now that I love them.”

            “It’s Lucifer’s night. You’re going back to her and not going to fight with her?”

            “Relax, my beta and love. I’m going to do exactly that.”

            April cocked her head. “I hope you got laid recently.” She smiled when he frowned. “She doesn’t deserve getting to deal with you and a month of being celibate. Sofia and I almost couldn’t handle you the last time that happened.”

            Iain chuckled softly. “I didn’t think she deserved that either, although it probably means I’m just as evil hearted as an angry Irish woman. It’s been a day.”

            April hugged him. “Good.” Her smile turned impish. “Just understand that I’m annoyed at her, not angry. She hasn’t been hurt yet.” She gave him a suddenly innocent look. “I mean at all. I didn’t intend for the word yet to get slipped into that.”

            “I know. You don’t normally give warnings.” She grinned at him. “Yeah, I noticed.”

            “Do you want me to walk you back to Lucifer’s?”

            Iain wrapped her up in his arms and squeezed until she gasped before he slowly released her. “I do, but you can’t.”

            “Are you going to fight with them?”

            He chuckled and swept her damp hair back over her shoulder. “Twelve years ago a little girl upset me. To part of my mind, the one I use to reintegrate here when I return, it only happened a few minutes ago, but I’ll keep the part of me that is somewhere around a century old more aware than usual until the morning comes so I don’t get upset again.” She gave him a sad smile and he chuckled. “I wish I’d been able to spend all of the time with you and the rest of my family too, but it had to be done so we have centuries in front of us where we will be together.”

            April shoved him away. “You need to get back to Lucifer.” He raised an eyebrow and she smiled. “Pokegirls seek sexual contact when we’re anxious and right now I’d like nothing more than to drag you to the bed that’s conveniently behind me and fuck you until I know you aren’t going to vanish like a soap bubble.”

            “You have my solemn oath that if it is at all possible, I will always come back to you, April.”

            She grabbed him. “I love you so much.”

            “And I love you. Don’t forget to let Ninhursag know I’ve been gone for over a year so you and Sofia can wear me out tomorrow.”

            She giggled and let him go. “Already done. Now she wants to talk to Lucifer about why you went.”

            “Tomorrow, please.”

            “I’ll tell her.”

            “Thanks. And thank you for coming to talk to me.”

            “I am your wife, your lover, the mother of your children and your beta, Iain. It is my responsibility, duty and pleasure to be all of those things for you. Now go.”

            Iain gave her a quick kiss and left.

            April ignored her things on the daybed and teleported to the doors to the Sabine ranch and headed through, teleporting again as soon as she was at the ranch. Ninhursag opened the door to her room as she appeared in front of it. “Come in.” She raised an eyebrow at April’s dress. “I thought he was going back to Lucifer’s tonight.”

            “I was in the shower when he told me he was leaving. I’ll stand so I don’t get anything damp.”

            “What is going on?”

            “Privacy has been invoked.” April smiled to herself. “By Miriam.”

            “A five year old invoked privacy?” Ninhursag looked thoughtful. “Is the privacy issue the reason Iain left?”

            “I believe it is. He said we’d have to question Lucifer about why he was leaving, although I don’t think she knows he left.”

            “Hopefully she won’t find out until we question her about it.” Ninhursag folded her arms. “Theodora, I want an appointment with Lucifer tomorrow morning right after breakfast. Tell her it is a maharani to harem member meeting and it isn’t negotiable. We’ll meet at the swimming dock at the lake.”

            “Lucifer has dish washing duty tomorrow.”

            “She is excused,” April said. “Rosemary will take her place and I’ll take Rosemary’s next turn.” She frowned. “Miriam should be there too.”

            Ninhursag frowned again. “She’s a child.”

            “She invoked. If she cares for Iain at all, she should also learn it drove him away for twelve years. Adult behavior has adult consequences.”

            “That is actually a very good idea for a blanket rule.” Theodora noted. “Otherwise children might try to invoke to avoid punishment. Learning that if the invocation is investigated and found to be a coverup for something that should not have been invoked, they will receive the punishment of an adult will make the intelligent children think twice about trying to invoke.”

            “We can modify his oath,” Ninhursag suggested. “So if this happens again he can go to the hunting lodge and not be gone for years.”

            “I think we need to. We can have a meeting of the general staff,” April scowled. “After we deal with Lucifer and Miriam.”

            “Agreed,” Ninhursag growled.


            Theodora appeared and leaned against the wall. “What are you going to do at the hunting lodge?”

            Iain was packing Dikon balls into his backpack and looked up at the question. “I’ve got some preparation work before I take Bellona there the day after tomorrow. And I’ll check up on the raptors. After that, I want to scout the wyvern scar with an eye towards setting up a trap for milking some females and raiding the trench for eggs to hatch. I’m not planning to start doing that yet, but I’d like to see just how far away from the trench that I must be before I can put a trap and not have them come looking at it out of curiosity. Other wyverns showing up while I’m trying to knock out a wyvern is exactly the kind of event I don’t need. I’ll have enough fun dodging Allosaurus over there as it is.”

            “Daya wants to put drones on the Ark to help protect you and everyone else.”

            “And I told her that she could.”

            Daya appeared, her arms folded over her chest. “You also told me that I couldn’t deploy them if you were there alone.”

            He smiled. “True. That would be a disturbance, so if you want to give me more free time, you go ahead and disobey that order.”

            “If you gave me permission, it wouldn’t be a disturbance,” Daya pointed out.

            “Exactly. Either do what I want or give me more time to myself.”

            “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

            “I refuse to answer that on the grounds that if I say yes, you will try to somehow interpret that as permission to deploy, making my words an invitation and therefore your presence not a disturbance. I am not giving permission.”

            Theodora laughed. “Now who is being fey?”

            “I keep getting told I am fey or spirit folk or whatever, so I might as well work with it.” He finished packing away the Dikon. “Are you putting together my wish list for Bellona’s trip?”

            “I am,” Theodora assured him “Why do you want so many vegetables and fresh fruit?”

            “Mielikki and I and then Elizabeth and I tamed raptors. If Bellona is interested, we’ll branch out and try our hand at some herbivores and maybe some omnivores.”

            “What if she isn’t,” Daya asked.

            “Then I’ll be able to make some terrific salads and soups.” He checked his belt and pockets. “That seems to be almost everything.” He cocked his head and looked at Theodora. “I believe I asked for a download.”

            She nodded. “You did. And after considering it for a few femtoseconds, I decided that my answer is no.”

            Iain blinked. “It wasn’t a request. Cough it up.”

            “No. I won’t let you do this.”

            “Theodora Grey, give me those records.”

            “Iain, I love you and I will deny you nothing that you need and almost nothing that you want. But you don’t get them. I am invoking privacy.” She frowned. “No, I’m not invoking since you will order me to override that. I am placing them under Lensman’s Seal for a thousand years.”

            “What?” Iain looked like he wanted to glare and laugh at the same time. “You’re not a Lensman. I haven’t even run across any of them during my trips. You can’t use that to stop me.”

            “I don’t have any choice, Iain. You will cause yourself irreparable harm if you get that information and you do not need it. Daya knows what Lensman’s Seal is and she knows you can’t order her to give it to you either. Only I can and I refuse.”

            A female voice called down to them. “Hello?”

            Iain’s eyes suddenly blazed with fury. “Why is she here,” he whisper-snarled.

            “She needs to know what’s going on so she doesn’t take your side.” Theodora raised her voice. “Come down, Ninhursag.” Her voice returned to normal. “And she will not betray your trust.”

            Iain’s face smoothed as Ninhursag came down the stairs. “Theodora, you sent for me?”

            “Ninhursag, I am invoking privacy, excluding only you, me, Daya and Iain.”

            Ninhursag looked around and nodded slowly. “I understand and accept your invocation.”

            “I must report that I am disobeying a direct order from Iain. If you deem it necessary to punish me, I will understand and comply. But I can’t do what he wants, not in this.”

            “I rescind the request,” Iain said. “So this isn’t necessary.”

            “No,” Daya said. “You’ll just order it again later. Theodora is right.”

            “Everyone stop,” Ninhursag ordered. “What is this about? I know it’s his free time, but someone needs to explain what’s going on.”

            “Iain was going to go to the hunting lodge,” Theodora said. “He’s ready to leave. But he ordered me to give him my recordings of what happened at Melanie’s before he goes. I refused because he’ll just use them to tear himself apart over what happened.”

            Ninhursag’s eyes went wide. “What recordings?”

            “We record everything that happens around us,” Daya said quietly. “Under clan law of basic privacy, we don’t consciously access or remember those recordings except when necessary. However, we don’t delete them either. We keep them for a long time until we’re sure they’re not necessary, either for practical or historical reasons. Only then do we delete our recordings. We were both at Melanie’s for the birthday party. On top of that, Joyce had requested detailed recordings of everything that happened because she was planning to branch out into party planning, both for the harem and for outlanders. She felt it would lead to greater exposure for the winery and help her compete more successfully against the established wineries.”

            Ninhursag smiled. “Joyce was being very smart. That would have helped her a lot inside the harem.” Her smile faded. “So you have recordings of everything that happened that day?”

            “I do.”

            “Iain requested your records and you told him no.”

            “I did. He does not need those recordings and he will use them to torture himself over his perceived and incorrectly presumed failure to keep them alive. It is not his fault and his presence would have only added to the death count. He could not have saved one person who died at the restaurant.”

            “They trusted me and they’re dead,” Iain said in an anguished voice. “It is my fault, just like the deaths of Irena, Scheherazade, Hathor, Montsho and Sable are my fault. And I’ll never be able to find most of them. Hell, if I’m being honest, I probably won’t be able to find any of them, so they’re gone forever and,” his eyes hardened. “It. Is. My. Fault. I want to see them one last time.”

            “You want to watch them die,” Theodora stated.

            Ninhursag started. “Could he?”

            “The recording sensors are combat rated and therefore are hardened against EMP and thermal effects. Even though they were unarmored, they lasted almost three seconds after everyone was killed,” Daya said. “The radiation and thermal front killed the organics at Melanie’s restaurant almost instantly and we do not believe that they were aware of what had happened, but the records clearly show their deaths and the injuries to Vanessa and her daughters as they occur. That is what Theodora and I are refusing to give to Iain.”

            “Goddess,” Ninhursag breathed. “Does that mean that Kozakura could watch her father die?”

            Theodora shook her head. “Shikarou and everyone else were outside and Selene’s coverage of the area is much less complete than the coverage we have around our properties. She is not clan and does not think like clan.” She smiled for a second. “And because I was made the clan’s archivist, I maximized my sensor coverage to ensure a good historical record of the birth of a new clan and of my family would be ready for a thousand years from now when we surprised Iain with it at the clan’s millennial anniversary.”

            Ninhursag grabbed Iain’s hand. “I am disturbing your free time and you’ll get it back under the rules we agreed to. Now let’s go.”

            “You can’t go to the hunting lodge yet. You’re pregnant.”

            “Take me to Thirteen, to the Africa base.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “Why are we going there?’

            “I haven’t cried for what happened yet and I don’t want to do it here. After you’ve held me while I’ve had a good cry, we can go kill things until I feel better. Africa has more things that might fight back.”

            Iain nodded slowly. “Very well. Step with me when I tell you to. Step.”

            He’s still angry with us, Theodora said to Daya as they vanished.

            Daya’s tone agreed. Anger is healthy and he didn’t do what the Iain I knew before would have done. He respects us too much to do that.

            Theodora’s response radiated confusion. What would he have done?

            Iain Wolf did not like to be told no and he would have immediately changed us until we couldn’t refuse him anymore. He did that to me once. You saw our Iain’s eyes. He thought about it for a second and then dismissed the idea. We are fortunate to be Grey Clan.

            We are, Theodora sounded thoughtful. And we should find a way to reward him and encourage him to keep behaving that way. But not with these memories that he thinks he wants. Never those.



Iain Grey



Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Zareen - Nightmare

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Marguerite – Unicorn

Scheherazade – Dread Wolf

Irena – Sanctuary Goth

Lynn – Dire Wolf

Rosemary – Mistoffeles


Outer Clan

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Clan

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                                    Children



                                    Myrna (Age 4)



                                    Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)

                                    Meara: Duelist

                                    Regan: Duelist


                                    Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)

                                    Seraphina: Megami Sama

                                    Miram: Angel (Age 5)



                                    Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)

                                    Kim:  Nightmare

                                    Xanthe: Nightmare

                                    Epona: Nightmare

                                    Philippa: Nightmare

                                    Nott: Nightmare

                                    Nyx: Nightmare



                                    Anna: Ria

                                    Esmerelda: Ria


Monica Chambers

                                    James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)