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Loose Threads

One Hundred Twenty Two


Year Two Hundred and Seventy

            The Lemon Sour landed almost exactly in the center of the landing pad and Iain jumped to the ground. A kobold wearing a vest and skirt along with the badge of the harbormaster approached him as Nithrsaseth and Vivahdri climbed down to join them. “Master, I am Harbormaster Jalmari. We did not know you were coming until the outer sensor ring detected you. Mistress is on her way.”

            “There is no emergency,” Iain said reassuringly. “I brought some people who want to see the town and meet some of the people who live here.”

            Jalmari nodded. “Clan or outlander, master?”


            “I will spread the word.” The kobold eyed the Lemon Sour. “Will you be staying long, master? We have a patrol that will arrive in an hour from the serving a month with the Imperial Elven Fleet and they will land here for debriefing. The Vyshaan harbor is not cleared for military vessels because of security concerns involving Keltormir.”

            The Lemon Sour lifted off to hover behind them. “Can you assign me a slot?”

            The kobold smiled in relief. “Bay three is available for you, master.” The Lemon Sour rotated and slid sideways into an empty landing bay before settling back down. “Thank you master. Does your vessel need replenishing?”

            Iain shook his head. “I’ll be dropping my guests off when their visit is complete and then returning to the valley, so no. If there’s anything that is a direct delivery to there that she can haul, you can load it and make sure I get to see the manifest before I take off.” He waggled a finger at the kobold. “If there isn’t a complete manifest, with delivery information, I’ll just turn her turtle in the air and watch it hit the ground under me.”

            “There are always some low priority shipments pending, master, and I will personally ensure that the manifests are completely ready for you to review. They will be in the harbormaster’s office and ready for you by dawn tomorrow.”

            “Thank you, Jalmari.”

            Xune came trotting up, took in the scene in a glance and smiled. “Father!” She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face against his chest as he held her. “You have been gone far too long.” Her twee reached out this. They smell like dragon. Who are they?

            He is the king of the gold dragons and she is his mate.

            Iain felt her tense slightly in his arms. What did you do?

            I went to politely ask them why they were snubbing the most perfect gold dragoness in history. It turns out some council of old dragons decided you were evil because you are part drow. I argued that they didn’t have a clue and his nibs here decided he wanted to meet you and ascertain the truth. He also wants to see if he needs to shorten the leash of this council and its advisors.

            Was the woman who bore me evil?

            She was not.   

            Xune lifted her head and gave Iain a quick kiss on the cheek. “Welcome, Father. Who are your guests?”

            Iain turned her to face them. “This is Nithraseth and this is his mate, Vivahdri. This is Xune, my daughter and the governess of Nambale.”

            Xune curtseyed, which looked odd as she was wearing pants and a tunic. “Am I supposed to use your title, Your Resplendence?”

            “Not unless we are in court,” Nithraseth replied. “I am not here representing the court.”

            “May I ask why you are here?”

            “Your father insisted that certain information we have regarding you is incorrect. I decided to see if he was right and Vivahdri wanted to meet you and get away from court for as long as she could.” He smiled. “Is there a title of yours that I am supposed to use?”

            Xune shook her head. “No, there isn’t, unless for some reason you appear before me in my court.” Nithraseth looked surprised and she smiled. “As governess, I have the power of high, low and middle justice while within the territory of Namble. Sometimes I must exercise that power. It is not something that I enjoy, deciding the fate of someone’s life, but it is a duty that I carry out to the best of my ability.”

            Iain squeezed Xune’s shoulder and released it. “And, so far, she has done so to my satisfaction.”

            Vivahdri raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

            “As part of my duties as the Grey, I review all death sentences passed by my subordinates before they’re carried out. I do not agree with every decision that she has made regarding the operation of this colony, but I have agreed with every single death sentence she has ordered.”

            “What about the other decisions, the ones you don’t agree with,” Nithraseth asked.

            “If I disagree with her on something specific, I’ll either come down or I’ll summon her to the valley, and we’ll discuss what’s going on. However, in the end, I made her governess because I trust her judgement and I think she can do the job to the benefit of the clan as well as herself. She is the woman on the spot, and she gets to make the decisions while I critique them after the fact. I won’t countermand her unless she does something really boneheaded and, at that point, I’ll probably relieve her of her post.”

            “Later, you will have to tell me how you want to go about correcting the misinformation that you think you possess,” Xune said. “But first, I am going to presume you’re staying for at least a few days so let me show you to the room you’ll be staying in. Do you have a preference for a nice comfortable bed with all of the trimmings or would you prefer to have a dragon sized cavern instead to use?” She flashed a grin. “I am afraid that we do not provide loaner hoards for guests to sleep on.”

            Nithraseth gave her a confused look as Vivahdri burst out laughing. “Is the bed comfortable,” Nithraseth asked with a glance at his mate.

            “I think you’ll find it extremely comfortable,” Xune replied. “Let me show you to your rooms and then I will give you a quick tour of the colony’s primary caverns.” She took Iain’s hand. “Come along, Father.”


            Iain stood and looked at the stars overhead. It was well after midnight and Iain wasn’t sleepy so he’d gone outside to take a moment and relax. One of the best places to relax and hide here was on top of a large, flat rock that the priests and druids of Eilistraee and Mielikki used for their star sightings. The location wasn’t popular and so was usually quiet unless it was during one of the four phases of the moon. Then this area could be full of apparatus and people.

            Nithraseth and Vivahdri had been given a moderately extensive tour of the colony and fed a nice dinner with entertainment provided by the priestesses and worshippers of both Eilistraee and Mielikki.

            He chuckled at the memory of Nithraseth’s jaw dropping to the floor when Xune had stood, touched the neck of her loose gown and it had fallen to the floor to reveal her nude drow body as she started to dance to the music Iain had been playing on his guitar. While his daughter had chosen to follow the paths of formal magic and sorcery without becoming a priestess, she was a devout worshipper of Eilistraee and worshippers were encouraged to dance to the goddess every evening. While usually a very private event, some people always danced at the dinners and it was encouraged when they had guests.

            Father? The touch of Xune’s twee was hesitant, almost skittish. She’d always hated disturbing him when she thought he wanted to be alone or might be asleep.

            I’m awake.

            Oh, good. Vivahdri wants me to take her to your room. Are you there?

            I’m at Starwatcher Rock.

            Can I bring her to you?

            You already fixed me up with Ari. Do I need another dragoness?

            He felt her laughter bubbling behind her mental voice. This is entirely her idea, Father. I don’t know this one very much at all. I am only trying to be civil to them in the hopes I’ll get what I want from them eventually.

            This is a public area. I can’t stop her from being here and I’m not going anywhere unless I get attacked.

            We’re on the way.

            He heard them arrive about ten minutes later but didn’t stop from looking up at the sky after verifying it was them with his perception. “Oh, I forgot to tell you that we were attacked on our way here by a group of yuan-ti flying on Pteranodons. I warned them off and then killed the leader and a few others before they fled.”

            “There’s a group of them that claims to be a kingdom of serpent folk about a hundred miles to the east,” Xune replied. “They’ve been unusually direct in their threats and there have been some attacks we haven’t been able to link directly to them as far as we could determine. They hadn’t escalated to attacking our ships yet. It may be time for a punitive expedition to explain to them that we’re not prey. I don’t know if I want to try to absorb their offspring into the clan, though.”

            “Then don’t. If you have to move against them, exterminate the lot of them. Just be sure and kill all the snakes you can find since they can transform into various sizes of viper.”

            “I’ll keep that in mind. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have someone keeping my bed warm and I don’t want her to lose interest.”

            Iain glanced at her and smiled. “Go.”

            Vivahdri waited until Xune was gone. “I thought you said she was looking for a drake.”

            “She is. She’s just not going to pass up the pretty men or women who can entertain her while she’s looking.”

            “Oh.” Iain returned to his musings at the sky as they stood in silence for several minutes. With his perception, he could see Vivahdri giving him anxious glances before she finally turned to face him. “Aren’t you going to ask?”

            Iain had been trying to pick out the dimmest of the Tears of Selune that he could see, and then ramping up his vision another step to see what had changed in his view and try again. He glanced at her. “Ask what?”

            She gave him an annoyed look. “The conversation we had on your ship earlier.”

            Iain reviewed the various discussions they’d had on the ship. He knew immediately what she was probably getting at, but he wasn’t going to play whatever games she was trying to involve him in. “I’ve made arrangements for two fat para for in the morning, one for you and one for Nithraseth. It was actually cheaper than I thought it would be but I paid the owner a bit extra to make sure they were well rested and not stressed.”

            “That’s not what I am talking about and you know it.”

            Iain turned to look her in the eyes. “Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about and there is nothing for me to ask about it. You are doing what you are doing for reasons that make sense to you and I’m not going to pry. You’ve already denied the truth and I try not to ask the same questions of the same people unless I’m trying to get them to learn something. You are not my student.”

            Vivahdri took a deep breath. “Nithraseth once had a mate that he loved with all of his heart and intended to spend the rest of his life with. She was killed and he swore to never fall in love again. But he was lonely, and the decision was made by some of the elder dragons to make sure he wasn’t alone and to try to make sure he had more children. He is not young, but his bloodline is very respected and powerful. It’s also very rare which is why we were surprised to find out I’m gravid.”

            “He’s probably got another four or five hundred years before entering the Twilight,” Iain said.

            “I doubt he has that long left,” Vivahdri said. “To try and accede to his wishes and, remembering his oath, every century the elders pick three young dragonesses and present them to him. He selects one to be his next mate. One of his faults is that he doesn’t like people who are smarter than he is, especially not his mates. What did I do wrong?”

            “You formed a link between my defense of the way the golds have been treating Xune and the way my people would treat my other children and possibly me that I didn’t see and should have. I don’t think he noticed, though.”

            She nodded thoughtfully. “I don’t think he did either, but if he did, there’s very little that I can do about it.” Her gaze sharpened on him. “What about you?”

            “What about me?”

            “You were interested in me earlier.”

            “I am interested in lots of women. Most of them never know about it and, even among the ones who do, usually nothing happens between us. You should be used to drakes being interested in you at court.”

            “I am the mate of the king of the gold dragons,” Vivahdri said evenly, but Iain could still pick out the faint bitterness in her voice. “I am so unapproachable to every other gold drake, at court or not, that most of them won’t even talk to me outside of their official duties. My prospects will be very good when my century with him is up, but until then my only company is other dragonesses, many of whom he is also trying to breed with.”

            “You said you have your dalliances and he has his.”

            “I said that he has his dalliances and I, if the opportunity presents itself, may have mine. There is no opportunity in court. It all gold drakes and the unwritten rule is no one spends time with the king’s mate.”

            “What is it that you want, Vivahdri?”

            “I want someone that I can enjoy being with. I like Nithraseth. He is a good drake and is an outstanding king, but he is not what I want in a mate. I didn’t realize it at the beginning, but it’s obvious to me now.”

            “I presume you volunteered to be considered for selection.”

            She nodded. “I did. It was a sound decision to make and I do not regret it. It has helped me and will continue to help me considerably in the future.”

            “It won’t work,” Iain said quietly. “You can’t be around me and behave as you want to and then go back to him and go back to your act forever. Eventually you’ll get things mixed up and it’ll fall apart. If your mistakes come when you’re around me, I’d just point them out, but those aren’t the important mistakes if he doesn’t like women who are smarter than he is.”

            She grasped his arm. “I can make this work!”

            “No, you can’t and I’m not going to let you destroy what you have right now with Nithraseth while trying to juggle everything involved, including me. By the time your century with him has passed and another has taken your place you’ll have moved on and be looking at all the eligible suitors who are clustered around trying to get your attention. But, if you still remember me, you’re always welcome.” He smiled and gently pulled his arm free. “Besides, I’m not a gold and our children would find themselves in the same shithole that Xune is in because of their mixed blood. Now, if you want to correspond or something and try to be friends, I think that would be a good idea.”

            She gave him a rueful smile. “Is that all I can get?”

            Iain winked. “Friendship with me is pretty significant. I don’t have many friends, by choice. And you won’t ever get what you might really want with me if we’re not friends.”

            She looked surprised. “Oh?”

            “Vivahdri, I have lots of fuck buddies,” Iain explained. “We get together and we might spend a little time together but mostly we fuck and that’s pretty much the extent of our relationship. Afterwards, she goes her way and I go mine. Many of them I never see again. I don’t miss them, either. But here, on this world, I can count the number of lovers I have on one hand and still have fingers left over.” He frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t have any fingers left over. I am friends with every one of my lovers. It’s part of why we are lovers. We became friends first because I am only willing to open up with friends.” He shrugged. “And it seems to me that you’re not really all that interested in being fuck buddies.”

            She nodded. “How can I contact you?”

            “I’ll give you some magical ribbons that you can use to send me messages. You wrap the message in one of them and say my name and it will teleport to a collection point. Unless I’m out of the valley I should get it in a day or so. I can send you messages that way too and I can give you a pouch they’ll arrive in. Or I can have them delivered normally by courier if the other way might cause problems for you at court.”

            “You have much magic that I’ve never heard of.”

            “In many ways, dragons live in a very small world,” Iain said with a grin. “They have very detailed information on the immediate area around where they live but often not much beyond that. And my valley is a long distance from your court, so there isn’t any trade between us yet. And to be brutally honest, dragons don’t make many things, they appropriate or purchase the things that have been made by others and use them for themselves. Once in a while they have something commissioned specifically for them.” He stretched slowly. “Is this something that will work for you?”

            She looked thoughtful and then nodded once. “It is.”

            Iain dug into a pocket and pulled a bunch of silver ribbons from it. “Here are the ribbons you’ll need to send me messages and,” he held out his hand and a small satchel appeared in it. “Here’s the pouch I’ll send my replies to.”

            She took them both, staring at him. “How did you know to have these for me?”

            He smiled. “A good wizard never reveals his secrets.”

            “I will write you just as soon as I can.” She looked down. “Is it safe to put the ribbons in the satchel?”

            “It is. Even better there’s an outside pocket for the ribbons so they don’t get tangled up with my messages.”

            Vivahdri coiled up the ribbons and tucked them in the pocket. “Thank you.”

            “Just be careful. I don’t want you tossed out of court for being the smartest girl there.”

            “I will.” She stepped forward and sniffed his neck, inhaling deeply. “I like the way you smell.” She looked at him, her golden eyes dark, and suddenly licked his neck. “Goodnight.”

            Iain watched her go before shaking his head. “She is definitely trouble just looking for a place to happen. I need to make sure she doesn’t happen to me.” He grinned. “At least not until Xune is accepted amongst the golds as she wants.” He shook his head and headed for his room.


Year Two Hundred and Seventy Five


            Iain’s head snapped around. Working on a project to be able to detect Mielikki and Eilistraee when they dropped in was currently making is perception a little erratic. He thought he knew how to fix the issue but hadn’t had the time to do the research before proceeding. “I didn’t know you were coming to the valley, Xune.” He nodded towards a chair. “Sit down and give me a few minutes to finish mixing these chemicals.” He was wearing a face shield made of metal with a crystal visor since plastic production wasn’t possible. He was also wearing thick leather gloves and a heavy leather apron and held a stone rod a yard long with a vial attached to the end of it. The vial held a liquid that glowed lavender in color.

            “You didn’t know because this is unscheduled,” Xune said quietly as she claimed the indicated chair. “I need some advice.”

            Iain carefully poured, at a very specific rate, the liquid into a larger pot filled with a slowly bubbling mixture. When he was done, he took the rod and the vial to a pot filled with water and dropped the vial into it. There was a flash of light and tiny balls of lightning skittered over the water for several seconds before fading away.

            Iain took off his protective gear and put it on the shelf where it belonged before motioning to Xune and leaving the room. In the next room was a small table and some chairs. Iain gave Xune a quick hug and dropped into one. “Is this about your first conclave?”

            Xune sat down in the chair next to his. “Indirectly, I think. Nothing bad happened there. For gold dragons, it was a lot less stuffy than I expected.” She grinned. “After the official stuff concludes each day there are parties. They’re kind of restrained and not really like what I’m used to, but they still qualify as parties.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It’s Nithraseth.” Iain’s face stilled and she shook her head wildly. “No, nothing like that. You don’t need to kill him.”

            “I think I’d have put the word try in there somewhere. He’s a renowned fighter and he’s got all those gold dragon warriors who follow him around most of the time.” Iain smiled slightly. “But it’s good to know I don’t have to try. Let me guess, he thinks you’re hot and wants to make babies with you.” Xune looked surprised and his smile widened. “If you weren’t my daughter, I’d be having those thoughts about you. Any reasonable drake would.”

            “Yes, he wants me to become one of his partners.” Xune settled more comfortably into her chair. “I’m trying to reason this out but I think my hormones are getting in the way.”

            “You want to know what I think.” She nodded. “And you think I have an opinion on this.”

            “Father, you have an opinion on everything. You don’t air those opinions very often, but you are the most opinionated person I know.”

            “I’m not sure that’s a compliment.”

            She smiled. “I know it isn’t, but it is how you are.” Her smile vanished. “Brutal honesty.”

            “Someone is feeling masochistic.” Iain steepled his fingers together under his chin and thought for a moment. “At first look, Nithraseth is almost perfect for what you want. He rescued you, essentially, by overriding the council and the Record Keeper when he declared you were a true gold dragon.”

            “Yes,” Xune said, “but after I was interviewed by the Record Keeper, she did change her advice to the council. They just refused to consider it, which is why Nithraseth had to make that proclamation.”

            “True. He’s powerful and he’s a proven sire. He’s also very old and, from what I’ve heard from Vivahdri, is going to enter Twilight sooner than anyone thought. But it wouldn’t be so soon that you two couldn’t raise a child together.” He fixed his daughter with a look. “The problem is that it will never happen.”

            Xune’s shoulders sagged slightly. “Explain.”

            “He’s got a mate and she’s just had twins for him. You could wait, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals. He’s the king and he’ll be the king until he steps down or dies. He isn’t going to step down until his health forces him to. He is not going to leave court to help you raise a child and you are not going to leave Nambale to go to court to raise a child with him. I’d relieve you if you tried and you love your position.”

            “I can raise a child by myself,” Xune said quietly.

            “I don’t doubt that, but you told me that you wanted a mate to help with your first kids. Has that changed?”

            Xune’s voice was even quieter. “It has not.”

            “Then my recommendation is that you look for a different drake to take as your mate. Golds don’t always mate for life so you can kick him to the curb if it becomes necessary. Later, when you’re more confident and are willing to be a single mother, you can let Nithraseth fertilize your eggs. If, for some reason, he’s not available, there will be other eligible drakes. You don’t love him, do you?”

            “No.” Her response was definite.

            Iain reached out and took her hand. “I am so sorry that I can’t tell you what you want to hear, Xune. I wish I could but I am not going to start lying to you and I am not going to give you what I think is bad advice when you come to me and ask me for what little wisdom I possess.”

            “I come to you for accurate advice, Father. Never stop giving me that.”

            “From what I see, you have two viable options to get what you want,” Iain squeezed her hand gently. “You can find a drake to take to mate and get pregnant by him or you can find an understanding drake to be your mate and explain to him what you want so you’re not deceiving him. Then you get pregnant by Nithraseth and then you and your mate work together to raise it. Later, you can have a child or two with your mate, possibly while you’re raising your first.”

            Xune stared at him for several seconds. “I hadn’t considered the second option. But why would a drake agree to let me get pregnant by another if we’re mated?”

            “The elder golds want Nithraseth’s seed spread as wide and as far as it can be,” Iain replied. “Helping to raise one of his children wouldn’t hurt the prestige of a younger, ambitious drake from a less powerful bloodline.” He smiled at her surprised expression. “As much as I detest politics, I am the Grey and I have to think about it a lot more than I’d like. Without trying to pressure you, raising that child as clan wouldn’t hurt us, either, although the elders are going to want it raised according to their outlander values.”

            “My children will be clan,” Xune said flatly.

            “And I happen to think that’s always the right answer, but it’s not the only possible answer and I will support you no matter what, from anyone. But if you do ever have children that are not going to be raised as clan, they don’t get twee unless I decide they do.”

            Xune nodded. “Thank you, Father.” She stood. “And thank you for the advice, even if it’s not what I wanted to hear.”

            Iain rose and swept her into a hug. She clung to him tightly. “I will always love you, Xune. Are you rushing back to Nambale?”

            She looked up at him. “Did you have something in mind?”

            “The kattle herds have split up again and one of them wants to move into the crop zone here in the valley. I was thinking about a quick hunt to thin their numbers down a little and drive them somewhere else. I believe I heard your stomach growl a minute ago.”

            Xune’s eyes lit up. “That sounds wonderful.” She tugged on his hand. “Let’s go!”


Year Three Hundred

            Vatorin’s twee has sent out an emergency call that his throat has been cut open and his heart has been ruptured. His eyes are open and imagery has been sent to the local security teams. Shatris’s twee reports she’s under attack by outlanders in their bedroom. She has killed one and the others have fled after attacking her and Vatorin. Shatris is critically wounded. Tasini was out attending a class for her novitiate and is unharmed. Fara was with Tasini. They have not yet returned.

            Iain rolled out of bed and threw on his clothes on as Zilvra did the same thing on the other side of the bed. Closest teleport arrival zone?

            Red Four.

            Iain reached out with his mind. Selsharra, come here now. Emergency.

            She appeared, her hand on her sword. “What is it?”

            “There’s an assassination attempt on Shatris. Vatorin is down and dying. Zilvra and I need teleport to Red Four. Then I’ll be chasing assassins and you’ll be keeping me from doing anything abysmally stupid.”

            “Keep you from doing anything abysmally stupid? I don’t know if I can do that much alone,” Selsharra muttered.

            Zilvra laughed as she took the moon elf’s hand. “Security will be chasing the assassins, Iain. Your place is with me as we try to save Vatorin’s and Shatris’ lives.”

            Security has orders to detain every outlander they see until the assassins are identified, his twee noted.

            Iain grabbed Selsharra’s free hand. “Zilvra’s the head priestess and I’ll stay with her as she wants. Go!” She activated one of her contingency teleports and they vanished.

            Red Four was empty when they arrived and the three of them raced for the rooms of Shatris and Vatorin.


            A hooded individual appeared from a cross hall up ahead. Outlander, Reena’s twee announced when it didn’t get a response from an attempt to interrogate the stranger’s twee. “Halt!” Reena called immediately. The hooded figure pointed a wand in their direction and magic missiles shot from it towards her and her team. The missiles changed direction and hit her armband, which absorbed them harmlessly.

            As soon as the wand had appeared, each of the five kobolds had grabbed a green ball from a pouch and hurled it at their attacker. One scored a direct hit and the ball exploded outwards into pseudopods that wrapped tightly around the intruder, binding its arms and legs together and around it’s torso as an anchor before contracting violently and bringing the target crashing to the floor in a bundle that cursed in elven even as the other balls puffed into smoke and dissipated. The kobolds quickly pulled the hood back to reveal the snarling features of a green elf and shoved a wad of leather deeply into his mouth.

            Prisoner for pickup, Reena sent to Security Command. She glanced at the ceiling above to read the symbols engraved on it. Similar symbols were carved into each intersection in the caves. Red Fifteen, Zone Charlie.

            Pickup is five minutes out, Security Command replied. Guard until pickup arrives.

            We guard, Reena sent back to acknowledge the order. A few minutes later a trio of dwarves showed up with a pair of metal poles and a large leather bag. The bag was slid around the prisoner and the poles stuck through the straps. Two of the dwarves picked up the poles and placed them on their shoulders before standing to pick the bag off the ground. They headed off at a fast trot, led by their team leader.

            Free, Reena sent.

            Go to Yellow Four and hunt there.

            We hunt. The kobolds ran off into the tunnels.


            The bedroom door was open and a dwarf and kobold were standing nearby when Iain, Zilvra and Selsharra ran up. “We waited outside as you ordered,” the dwarf said to Zilvra. “Nobody has entered or left since we arrived.”

            “Good,” said the High Priestess of Grey Valley in a steely voice of command. “Stand guard while we work. Iain, with me.”

            “I’ll wait here,” Selsharra said to Iain.

            “I’ll yell if you’re needed.” He ducked into the room behind Zilvra.

            There was blood on the furniture, on the walls and it covered the floor in sprays and pools. Shatris sat against the bed, facing the doorway with her sword in her lap. Her eyes were open but she was no longer conscious. Her throat had been torn out and stab marks dotted her chest. Vatorin was crumpled next to the bed, tangled in the bedding where he’d tried to get away from the attacks.

            “Tend to Vatorin,” Zilvra ordered. Her eyes met his. “His twee is no longer responding and you’re more powerful than I am.”

            “On it.” Iain dropped to his knees next to Vatorin as Zilvra pushed Shatris flat and stretched her out, murmuring a heal spell as she did.

            Iain’s scan showed that Vatorin wasn’t quite dead, but he was so far gone that clerical magic would actually work better if they waited until he died. Instead, Iain put his hands on Vatorin’s chest and poured in the healing magic he’d learned from Irena and Siobhan and perfected under Candace’s tutelage. It stabilized Vatorin and kept him alive as Iain began repairing the wounds from the inside out.

            He was so focused on what he was doing that he jumped when Zilvra murmured into his ear. “How is he?”

            Iain glanced up to see Zilvra and a terrified Shatris staring at him with desperate hope in her eyes. Both women were covered in Shatris’ blood. “It’s going to take a few minutes, but he should be fine,” Iain said as he returned his attention to his work. “Tasini and Fara are outside. Go deal with them.”

            Shatris sobbed with relief for a moment before getting up and heading for the door. Zilvra put her hand on Iain’s shoulder. “I’ve called security to bring a team to take away the assassin’s corpse. I’ll be available to raise it for interrogation.”

            “Understood. It’ll be after things settle down a bit.” Vatorin suddenly gasped and began breathing. Iain looked up at Zilvra. “I’m going to put him into a healing coma until tomorrow unless you want to try something new.”

            She looked interestedly at Vatorin and then back at him, dropping her voice as she spoke. “What is it?”

            “This healing takes care of all the gross injuries immediately and then slowly finishes up over the next few hours without me having to monitor it. What if I do this and then you hit him with a heal spell to fix all the rest right away?”

            “You could do this without me,” she said. “You’re powerful enough of a priestess.”

            “I don’t want to do it without you. We’re a team and it lets me save my strength in case it’s needed elsewhere later. And you’re the High Priestess while I’m your assistant.”

            Zilvra gave him a concerned look. “You are her Chosen as well as Mielikki’s Chosen. That is why you are not the High Priestess of Mielikki.”

            “That’s not common knowledge and it gives me a very different set of responsibilities from yours. You minister to the sick and injured here. Yes, we have a bunch of other priestesses, but you are the face of the Lady Dancer and, to a lesser extent, the Forest Queen. You are their hand, gentle and healing. That’s what the worshippers remember, even during the monthly hunts. I’m their sword.” He looked down. “And I’m done. You want to try that experiment or should I put him into that coma?”

            Zilvra looked at the doorway once to make sure nobody was trying to enter the room. She loved experimenting with magic and Iain knew it. “You’re sure this won’t harm Vatorin?”

            “He’s my friend too,” Iain said. “I wouldn’t let you try if I thought it might hurt him.”

            “Move over.” Iain did and Zilvra cast the spell on Vatorin. “It worked. I can feel he’s completely well now. Wake him up.”

            Iain chuckled. “Yes, my love.”

            Zilvra gave him a warm look back. “I’m covered in blood.”

            “I’m a dragon. That doesn’t bother me at all. Quite the contrary.”

            “I see I have some new questions to ask Ari about your relationship with her.”

            Iain sighed. “Waking him up.”

            Vatorin’s eyes opened and he looked around slowly until he saw Zilva and Iain. “I’m not dead?”

            “I can’t let you die before Shatris,” Iain said with a half grin. “She’d fall apart and you are not leaving me with that mess.”

            “I’ll get Shatris and Tasini,” Zilvra said as she rose. “Shatris is covered in blood like you are, Vatorin, but she’s fully healed too.”

            “They had some kind of magic,” Vatorin said quietly. “One minute we were alone and the next we were under attack.”

            “We caught some of them and Shatris did for one other. I’ll find out what’s going on before I kill them.”

            Vatorin looked at Iain with confused eyes. “Who would want to do this to us?”

            “That’s one of the questions I intend to get an answer for.” Iain looked up as Shatris and her daughter followed Zilvra towards them. “Now act healthy before someone can start crying.”


            “Why does Tasini have to be here,” Vatorin asked Iain as Zilvra came in and closed the door behind her.

            “I want all three of you here so I only have to tell this once and because there are some things that will have to be decided afterwards and they could impact all three of you. I’ve asked Zilvra to be here in her official capacity as High Priestess of the Lady Dancer and, if necessary, for Mielikki.” Iain nodded to Fara, who smiled grimly back. “And I’d have to imprison you to keep you away from Shatris right now.”

            “You would,” she said softly.

            “Are the people who attacked my parents dead yet,” Tasini asked harshly.

            “No. I wanted to keep them around for a little while longer in case some other questions that I haven’t thought of come up,” Iain replied. “But their death sentences have already been pronounced.”

            “What did the interrogations determine,” Zilvra asked.

            Iain hadn’t interrogated the prisoners. Instead, he’d copied their memories and added them to the database he was building for Nightraven. “Shatris, these were royal assassins from Keltormir and their orders were to kill you and, if they could easily find her, Tasini.” Her eyes went wide in shock. “It turns out that, other than Raloric, you two are the last living members of his family.”

            “But we had cousins,” Shatris protested. “Nieces and nephews too.”

            “Yes, the ones who went into hiding. Not anymore. They were located and they’re all dead, usually involving an accident of some kind. You two are it.” He leaned forward slightly. “And Raloric gave the assassins their original orders, not Duke Farfir Stilldreamer or any other of your brother’s flunkies.”

            “You’re certain,” Shatris asked, almost too calmly as she considered the fact that her brother had tried to have her killed.

            “I am. I’m also certain that he’ll try again. Since he has no children, you’re the only rallying point for the disaffected. We both know they’ve been talking to you.”

            “And I have refused to get involved each time,” Shatris said. “I won’t start a war with my brother.”

            “You don’t get a choice this time,” Iain replied. “He sent assassins to attack my clan members. I can’t let this go unpunished. The question I need to ask is, are you willing to help me keep the casualties, on both sides, to stay as low as is feasibly possible?”

            Shatris nodded. “I am.”

            “It could require some pretty significant sacrifices on your part,” Iain said quietly.

            “You are not going to get my mother killed,” Tasini snapped. “She almost just died,” she yelled as tears welled in her eyes.

            “I am not planning on anyone in this room dying anytime soon,” Iain said reassuringly. “But your mother will have to make some serious sacrifices. You and Vatorin will have to do so too.”

            “If it’ll keep the number of unnecessary deaths down,” Shatris said quietly, “I will sacrifice almost anything.”

            “I am planning to do to Keltormir something very similar to what I did to Vyshaantar,” Iain said. “Eliminate your brother and make you queen. Tasini would formally become a princess and your heir.”

            “You married Helesatra,” Shatris said with a smile. “I’m already married and I love my husband.”

            “And that is the one big difference,” Iain replied. “It will still work. You become queen and we turn Keltormir into satellite clan.” He leaned back in his chair. “But this plan hinges on you. If you’re willing to work at it, and I know you would, we can do this.”

            “And if I refuse?”

            “I still kill Raloric and then Keltormir shatters as the nobles go to war to see who will become the next ruler. I’ll pick off what I can, but the commoners are the ones that really suffer during that sort of conflict.”

            “You’re manipulating my wife into doing what you want her to,” Vatorin said angrily.

            “I am definitely trying to. I don’t want civil war sweeping through Keltormir, but I am going to kill Raloric. And him dying is more important to me than keeping civil war from happening since he’s pretty much the root of all or our Keltormir related problems.” He chuckled softly. “I don’t want to do this to you. You’d have to move the capital and I like seeing all of you. It’s terribly unfair to the three of you and to Fara, and I feel a bit guilty about it.” His smile vanished. “But Keltormir has been a sword hanging over our heads ever since Raloric became king and I am not going to let the opportunity to have a justifiable reason to end that threat once and for all pass. It would be a dereliction of my duties as the Grey.”

            Shatris nodded. “And it would be a dereliction of my duties as the Crown Princess of Keltormir to watch you destroy my kingdom. I will help you save it and make it clan.” She looked at her husband with a sad smile. “I am sorry about what this will do to you and Tasini. There’s a lot you’ll have to learn and not a lot of time to do it in.”

            Tasini smiled at her mother. “We have twee, mother. We’ll learn quickly.” She grinned. “So I get to be a princess?”

            “You already are one,” Shatris said. “You just have to learn what you’re supposed to do now, but I think that we’ll all have to learn more since we’re going to stay clan.” She looked at Iain. “I will want to correspond with Helesatra. She’s doing the same thing and I’d like to see if her experiences can help me make the process easier or faster for my subjects.”

            Iain reached out with his twee as he nodded. My love?

            Her response was instant. What is it?

            Your prediction was spot on. Raloric sent assassins to kill Shatris and her family. They failed, fortunately.

            He felt the surge of her anger. Keltormir had been a thorn in her side too. It will take a week to fully mobilize the army.

            That’s not necessary, I think. I’m going to kill Raloric and install Shatris on the throne.

            Her anger faded and a teasing tone replaced it. Is this your way of marrying Shatris?

            Unless she’s willing to have two husbands at the same time, no. Shatris wants to correspond with you for pointers on how to convert Keltormir into clan as quickly and painlessly as possible.

            I don’t see where that will be necessary. You will instead create a small portal between our castles so we can visit and talk. Put it somewhere she can keep it secure and it’ll also function as an escape route if problems arise for them.

            Just a moment. Iain refocused on his surroundings. “Helesatra suggests that instead I put in a portal connecting your castle with hers so the two of you and your families can visit each other whenever you want. It will also act as an escape point if something goes disastrously wrong with our plans.”

            Shatris looked surprised. “You can do that?”


            She smiled. “That would be even better. I look forward to meeting Queen Helesatra again.” Her smile faded. “When will you act against Raloric?”


            “I must be there to witness.”

            Iain frowned. “Are you sure?”

            “I will have to convince my subjects that Raloric wasn’t murdered out of hand, Iain. After all, we don’t want a spontaneous war with Keltormir because the nobles fear for their own safety because of the way Raloric died.”

            “Very well. It’ll be before daylight since I don’t intend to fight my way to his rooms.”

            “I will be there too,” Fara announced.

            “I wouldn’t dream of separating you two right now,” Iain said.


            Iain nodded and rose. “Then I’ll see you both in the morning, very early.”


            “We are your harem and your servants, my lord,” Eirian almost snarled. She gestured towards Selsharra with a wing. “She is not.”

            Iain glanced at Selsharra, who was watching impassively. “No cutting remarks?”

            She shook her head. “I want to see how you handle this. Besides, she’s right.”

            “Eirian, the only people who know you exist here are my three wives, Xune Mielikki, Eilistraee and Selsharra. As much as possible, I want to keep it that way. But everyone has seen Selsharra and thinks she’s my girl Friday as well as some kind of bodyguard or possibly lover. Even then, only we know she’s a baelnorn. Everyone else thinks she’s alive. You will continue to be my fist behind the scenes. That’s why you are going to take a team and secure Raloric, his quarters and anyone else inside them about an hour before we leave.”

            “Shatris has seen Viersunuth and Helesatra,” Eirian noted. “Helesatra is no longer in your harem, but Viersunuth is. Take her as your obvious guard and let Selsharra function as she is supposed to, which is not as part of the harem.”

            “Agreed.” He looked at Selsharra. “Well?”

            “It is an acceptable compromise, but that is something that you are good at creating.” Selsharra eyed Eirian for a moment before returning her attention to Iain. “I want to kill Raloric.”

            “I normally kill my own snakes.”

            The moon elf baelnorn didn’t back down. “You tell me that there are women I will meet one day who want you to control your behavior so that you remain as good as you can. You have wanted to kill Raloric ever since he arranged the murder of his father. That desire has only grown over the years as he has struck at your clan, but until now you lacked the direct proof to justify moving against him to these same women. Satisfying the urge to butcher Raloric will not help you to keep from sinking into the traps that evil lays for the unwary. I realize that Raloric most definitely deserves death for regicide, fratricide and attempted fratricide under the laws of the very land he rules and my justice will be swift and merciless. But I feel no personal animosity towards him.”

            Iain stared at her for several seconds. “I would like to very much punch you in the throat right now.”

            “If that helps you to accept that my position is the correct one, I will allow it.” She smiled at him. “I do not say this lightly. You are my friend and I am concerned about the state of your soul.”

            Iain’s voice was a guttural growl. “Fine. You can kill him.”

            Selsharra gave him a relieved smile. “Thank you, Iain.” She stepped up in front of him and lifted her chin. “Do you wish to punch me in the throat now?”

            Iain reached out and touched the base of her throat with a fingertip. “What I want is immaterial. I don’t abuse people, especially not women. I’m not going to start with you.”

            Selsharra lowered her chin to look him in the eyes. “Good.”

            Iain let his hand drop. “Eirian, when you secure Raloric and his quarters, you are to take everyone alive and as uninjured as possible. If someone wanders in while I’m dealing with Raloric, you take them alive as well. You will not start killing unless I specifically authorize it.”

            “I understand and obey, my lord,” Eirian said.

            “I intend to arrive at the castle about two hours before dawn. One of you will take Selsharra there so she can take me and Shatris since she hasn’t been in Raloric’s quarters yet.”

            “Yes, my lord. I will place Viersunuth in charge of guarding the prisoners until you arrive and she can become your guard.”

            “Good idea. Now let’s do this.”


            King Raloric of Keltormir came awake when he was slapped lightly. “What?” He was slapped again and tried to stop his attacker only to realize his wrists were bound together. “Stop that!”

            The moon elf stopped smacking him on the cheeks. Gold flecked green eyes regarded him impassively. “Good, you’re awake. Can you stand?”

            “Untie me!”

            The moon elf grabbed his wrists and jerked him to his feet. “No.” She spun him around and shoved. “Walk.”

            Raloric looked down and realized he’d been dressed in his court regalia and his crown was on his head. “What is the meaning of this? I am your king!”

            “You are nothing to me,” the moon elf said as she pushed him into the next room.

            Iain sat in a chair with Shatris sitting beside him. Raloric halted in shock. “Guards!”

            “They can’t hear you,” Shatris said. “I’m sorry, but you didn’t give me any choice when you tried to kill my husband and daughter.”

            The moon elf pulled Raloric to a halt in front of Iain and Shatris. “King Raloric of Keltormir,” Iain said formally, “you stand accused of ordering the murders of your sister, Crown Princess Shatris of Keltormir, her husband Vatorin and your niece, Princess Tasini of Keltormir. I have reviewed the evidence provided by the surviving assassins and there is more than enough to prove your guilt, so I am not going to ask you how you plead. Is there anything you wish to say that might mitigate the sentence I am going to pass on you?”

            “You have no right to do this! I am the king of Keltormir and you cannot judge me!”

            “I hold you as my prisoner, and within your castle,” Iain said firmly. “I can do anything to you that I want. Shatris requested a formal trial and execution before she takes the throne and I have decided that her request has merit and agreed to it.”

            Raloric’s face swelled. “What,” he bellowed. “I am the king!”

            “Yes, you are,” Iain said. “And, since you have nothing useful to say, I now pronounce you guilty of all the charges. The penalty for them is death by simple execution. The sentence will be carried out immediately.”

            “Iain,” Shatris said. “I will have to live in this room. Can he be executed somewhere else?”

            “Selsharra, hold please. Viersunuth?”

            The blue dragoness in dragonborn form stirred from her place behind him. “My lord?”

            “Secure the throne room please.”

            She knew he meant the order for Eirian and the others skulking nearby. “It will be done, my lord.” She murmured a teleport spell and vanished.

            “She is very formal,” Shatris noted. “Fara will have a hard time becoming that way again.”

            Iain glanced at Fara, who gave him a quick grin. “You’re clan, Shatris. I’d suggest that a bit of informality from Fara isn’t going to lessen her ability to protect you. I’d also suggest that you not adopt all of the policies of Keltormir’s rulers. The nobles that like Raloric are going to be unhappy no matter what you do and all of your new subjects had better give you a chance to prove yourself before condemning you as usurping the crown from the legitimate king or they’re going to have a very bad time.”

            “That’s what she is doing, the bitch,” Raloric snarled. He screamed and tried to twist away from her when Selsharra punched him in the kidney with an iron fist.

            “I’m sorry, Your Highness,” Selsharra said to Shatris as she jerked Raloric back into place. “I just think he should show you the respect you deserve.”

            “I wish all of this wasn’t necessary, but he did try to kill us,” Shatris said. “And all of my blood relatives died before this. I don’t understand why he did it, but there is only one penalty under Keltormir or clan law.” She rose and plucked the crown from Raloric’s head. “You never deserved this. Tell me, did you have our father killed too? You were strangely ready to assume the duties of the king and had things ready for your associates to be promoted to key positions just as soon as word came of his death.”

            “You’ll never know,” Raloric said angrily.

            “You’re probably right,” Shatris said in an even tone that didn’t fool Iain for a minute. She was furious and working hard to hide it. “And it doesn’t really matter. You’ll be dead soon and so will everyone who I can tie to any of your plots. And then,” she leaned closer to her brother, “you’ll never again be able to threaten the people I love. If you’d left us alone, I’d have been happy to live my life as clan. But you weren’t and I am going to purge your memory from history when I become queen. All they will remember is your name and what will be carved on the door of your crypt. It will say you are Raloric the Kinslayer and may you burn forever in the Hells.”

            Viersunuth appeared. “My lord, the throne room is secure. There were guards stationed in there for some reason, but they have all been captured without harm.” She moved around Iain and stopped in front of Raloric. She leaned forward until they were nose to nose. Raloric yelped when a tiny bolt of lighning leapt from her muzzle to his nose. “I am going to teleport all of us to the throne room. If you fight the teleport, you will be left behind. If that happens, I will return here and then I will strangle you into unconsciousness and take you to the throne room. I will take my time strangling you and you will feel like you are slowly dying. Do you need to feel that now?”

            Selsharra drew a dagger, reversed it and drove the metal pommel into the base of Raloric’s skull with a solid crunch of metal on bone. He crumpled and she threw him over her shoulder before he could hit the floor. “Problem solved, dragon.”

            “My lord didn’t want him injured,” Viersunuth grumbled.

            “No, he didn’t want him incapacitated. A simple heal will fix anything that I may have damaged before I execute him.”

            “Ladies?” They both turned to look at Iain. “This isn’t the throne room and you two are headed straight for a full on squabble.”

            Viersunuth cocked her head as Selsharra’s cheeks slowly flushed. “I am sorry, my lord, for my behavior. Prepare for teleport.”

            “I’m sorry,” Selsharra said to Iain as the scene around them shifted to the throne room, “for my behavior.” She looked at Viersunuth. “I should not have reacted as I did. I apologize.”

            “I accept your apology and offer my own for baiting you.” She pulled a large square of canvas from her belt and unrolled it to make an eight foot by eight foot square. “Stand here with Raloric.”

            “Accepted.” Selsharra dropped Raloric into her arms as she moved onto the canvas. “He will need a little healing, Iain.”

            Iain touched Raloric on the forehead. “You cracked his skull and one vertebra.” He muttered a cure spell. “He’d have ended up paralyzed from the middle of his back down.”

            “He reminds me of some of the idiots at court in Evermeet who felt that having a title made them better than anyone of lesser rank and were exceedingly wrong in that feeling.”

            Iain touched Raloric again and he began to stir. “You were a duchess. Who outranked you except the princes and princesses?”

            Selsharra shrugged. “I gave up all titles when I became,” she paused and glanced at Shatris, “the guardian of my family’s line. One of the queen’s sons became duke as I had no living children to inherit it.”

            “What aren’t you telling me,” Shatris asked grumpily.

            Iain gave her a broad smile. “Lots.” Shatris hmphed as, behind her, Fara audibly choked off a laugh. Iain’s smile faded. “You wanted to witness this. Are you ready to proceed?”

            “I am.”

            “Then plop your butt down on your throne so we can do this as formally as possible.”

            Shatris looked at the throne and swallowed hard before gingerly sitting down on it. “Father forbade us from ever sitting on the throne whenever he wasn’t around.”

            “It’s a chair,” Iain said. “An ornate, highly cushioned and kind of ugly chair.”

            Shatris pointed at the six bound and gagged guards lining one wall. “Fara, disarm them and untie them. They will bear witness.”

            “Viersunuth,” Iain said quietly. “These you can threaten.”

            The dragoness nodded. “It would better to enchant them, my lord. They are guards and, presumably, are willing to give their lives for their former liege. They cannot be trusted to do otherwise.”

            “You have a point. Enchant them then.”

            Viersunuth cast a spell and Shatris watched as the guard’s eyes glazed over before going blank. “They can be released now, my lord, and will remember everything that they witness, but they will not act without instructions from me.”

            “Thank you, now you and Fara cut them loose.” Soon the guards were standing along the wall. “Are you ready, Crown Princess Shatris?”

            “I am.”

            Selsharra pulled Raloric upright and he glared at Iain. “King Raloric of Keltormir,” Iain repeated formally, “you stand accused of ordering the murders of your sister, Crown Princess Shatris of Keltormir, her husband Vatorin and your niece, Princess Tasini of Keltormir. I have reviewed the evidence provided by the surviving assassins and there is more than enough to prove your guilt, so I am not going to ask you how you plead. I declare you guilty on all of the charges and the sentence, under clan law, is simple execution. Princess Shatris, do you have anything to offer regarding the fate of your brother?”

            “The sentence is the same under Keltormir law,” Shatris pronounced. “Death.”

            “You can’t do this,” Raloric shouted.


            With a single quick motion, the moon elf baelnorn snapped Raloric’s neck. He jerked twice and was still.

            “Sir,” Fara said distinctly. Iain looked curiously at her. “I request a fully equipped company of security to help maintain order in the castle while the queen is busy with the transition of power. I suggest that it be one that is composed primarily of elves who are not drow.”

            Iain considered. “I can give you two security platoons and two companies of infantry. The infantry can guard doors and whatnot while the security teams crack heads for you.”

            “That would be even better,” Fara said. “How soon can you get them here?”

            Iain had been using his twee. “Rardur says they’ll be ready in twenty minutes. I’ll open a gate here, if you don’t mind, since it’s big enough for several hundred people.”

            Shatris nodded. “I’ll make sure they get quarters together.”

            Selsharra had rolled Raloric’s body up in the canvas. “What do you want me to do with him?”

            “Please take him back to the valley until Shatris is ready for him,” Iain said. “Get a priestess to cast gentle repose on him so he’ll be ready for whatever Shatris decides.” When you get to the valley, Liadan will be waiting to remove his heart without disturbing his body. She’ll also copy his memories.

            Selsharra’s eyes widened. Why?

            Raise dead won’t work if his heart is missing. He’ll come back to life and then immediately die again. At that point, someone wanting to bring him back to life will have to use a wish or something equally powerful, and those are much harder to come by. And if someone does bring him back to life, with his heart I can find the rest of him, should I need to.

            That’s very smart, Iain. “Then I’m off.” She cast a teleport and instantly vanished with the body.

            “If it’s all the same to you,” Iain said as he walked over to Shatris, “I will stay until the security forces get here.” She was staring at the crown in her lap. “I am very sorry to do this to you.”

            Shatris looked up and he watched as her eyes filled with determination. “Raloric was evil,” she said quietly. “Looking back, I think he was always that way, but he hid it well until he was king and little could be done then. This was the only way to remove him without destroying Keltormir.” She held out the crown. “Are you going to put this on me and make me queen? You are the Grey and I am sworn to you.”

            Iain put his hands behind his back. “I think that would send exactly the wrong message to the nobility. Instead, I think that you should keep the crown someplace safe until we can arrange for your coronation. You worship the Sisters and I’m sure we can come up with a priest or priestess to make you queen with their blessing.”

            “I need to be queen now, Iain.”

            “The crown doesn’t make you queen, it’s a symbol and nothing more. You are the queen and I will force that truth down the throat of anyone who says otherwise. And so should you.”

            “Civil war is likely,” Shatris said. “I’ll need your help then.”

            “If it happens, you’ll have it. Helesatra has also offered help if it’s needed. She doesn’t think you’ll have as many problems as you think you will. She believes that Raloric has destroyed the relationship the crown has with anyone except a few nobles. She believes they’ll welcome you with open arms, at least in the beginning.” He shrugged. “I think she’s right. She’s had several very good reasons to pay very close attention to Keltormir’s politics.” It also agreed with his assessment of what was going to happen.

            “Thank you, Iain.”

            “You’re welcome, but we both know it secures my border with Keltormir too.” He sat down on the ground next to the throne. “So what are your immediate plans, Your Majesty?”

            “As soon as the army has taken control of the castle, I’ll send out couriers to summon the nobles who aren’t Raloric’s favorites,” Shatris said. “Then I’ll announce Raloric’s death and have the guards who were here observing the event report what they witnessed. The army will hopefully keep the furor to a minimum.” She glanced at him. “I could use some impartial people, if you don’t mind. I’ll need a complete inventory of the treasury and the accounting books that are supposed to keep track of it. And guards will get posted at the treasury who won’t let anyone in that I haven’t vetted. My brother spent gold like it was water and I need to see just how bad the royal finances are.”

            “If you need some very low interest loans, let me know,” Iain said. “And that includes if you need them to pay off loans your brother already has.”

            “Thank you. I’ll probably find that some nobles are owed large sums of money and I may need seed money for the treasury. You helped Helesatra sack the useless portions of her army. Can you do that for me too?”

            “I think I’ll find you someone else who can do that. Duke Ammanth is not a supporter of the king and he’s critical of the condition of some of the army. He might be willing to cull the chaff.” He stretched out on the floor. “That’s a problem for later, though. So, is Tasini seeing anyone?”


            The throne room was packed with nobles to the point that the heat from all the warm bodies had filled the huge room and their exhalations had noticeably added to the humidity in the air. The myriad of perfumes, sweat, leather and metal blended together into an odor that was distinctly unpleasant to Iain’s nose and the expression on Shatris’ face when she inhaled suggested she wasn’t all that fond of it either. The susurrus of the nobles’ whispered conversations interacted with the room’s acoustics and echoed louder and softer without any reason that he could see.

            Shatris sat on her throne that had belonged to her father and, later, her brother. She’d removed the luxurious padding that Raloric had ordered installed and the throne had been restored to the condition it had been in when it had been Thefaren’s. Beside her, on a pillow covered stool, rested the crown of Keltormir where it awaited the arrival of Sylriel Sagehold, a moon elf priestess of Eilistraee from the valley. She was the one who would be formally coronating Shatris as the Queen of Keltormir.

            Zilvra had suggested that Sylriel, one of her deputies, be the one to perform the coronation instead of her so as to avoid rubbing the presence of drow in the clan into the faces of the nobles. It wasn’t a secret; but knowing there were drow in the clan and having one of your ancestral enemies crown your new ruler were two very different things, especially when one considered that all the nobles were outlanders.

            Shatris had deliberately waited three tendays from Raloric’s death to ensure that preparations for the feasting and celebrations across the capital were fully in place. Since the treasury had been empty of almost anything except a pile of notes of indebtedness, Iain had provided the money for the celebration so Shatris could start her rule off as she wanted.

            Iain stood with his shoulders pressed against the wall near the entrance into the throne room from the waiting chamber he’d waited in so many years ago to first meet Thefaren and Shatris. The stone was cool against his back and he appreciated the comfort it gave him. Viersunuth, Selsharra and Sorrel stood with him, and the blue dragonborn’s looming presence had given his little group a small circle of emptiness between them and the closest elves.

            The attendant at the door to the waiting chamber thumped his staff on the floor. Instantly, the nobles in the room went silent. Apparently, Selsharra sent to Iain, Raloric was rather severe on people talking during court. Shatris should keep this policy.

            The door to the waiting room swung open and Sylriel, followed by three under priestesses, stepped into throne room. She stopped when a bright light appeared in the center of the chamber. It flared sliver and died down to reveal Eilistraee and Mielikki.

            Sylriel and her entourage dropped to one knee and bent their heads as the power of both goddesses filled the room, locking the gazes of everyone in the room on them. The priestesses looked up and even the eyes of Iain’s three undead followed them as they walked across the floor. Iain resisted it but could still feel its underlying compulsion to stop everything to watch the presence of the goddesses. He still watched them, but because he wanted to and not because their power forced him to.

            Iain took Selsharra by the arm and wrapped her in his power. She shivered and stepped close to him. “I’ve never felt anything like that before,” she whispered to him.

            This is what happens when a goddess manifests her full power. I’ve had to learn how to resist it in case another god comes visiting, Iain told her with his twee. It is very hard to keep it from effecting you.

            Selsharra looked at Sorrel and Viersunuth. What about them?

            I have to touch people to free them from the influence and you are the most powerful of my guards today. Now take my arm and watch. I wish they’d warned me they were going to do this, but they’re goddesses and do as they will. Selsharra slipped her elbow inside his and pressed her side against his. Iain noted absently that she’d tucked his arm in the position that a woman did when they liked someone and the side of her breast against his forearm was soft and surprisingly warm.

            Mielikki wore the clothes she normally did while Eilistraee was wearing a loose linen shift that fell to her knees. She hadn’t bothered with shoes. The dress swirled around her as she stopped in front of the throne. “Shatris of Grey Clan, kneel.”

            Shatris slid to her knees in front of Eilistraee as Mielikki picked up the crown.  The drow goddess placed a hand on Shatris’ forehead. “I bless you and, through you, your loyal subjects. May all prosper together and be blessed with long life and good health throughout. May you and your subjects have many children and may all of them live long, healthy lives.” Her hand dropped and she took a step back.

            Mielikki handed Eilistraee the crown and then placed her hand on Shatris’ forehead. “I bless you as well,” she intoned. “I bless you and your loyal subjects with strength and vigor. Your hunts will be successful and your enemies cast into confusion and then destruction. Never fear, for we watch over you and yours and, through our servants, we will aid you in times of peril.” She stepped back.

            Eilistraee placed the crown on Shatris’ head. “You are Shatris, Queen of Keltormir,” she said. “Now stand.” Shatris rose as Eilistraee raised her voice. “All who hear me should remember our words to your new queen and rejoice. It is because of her that the tyranny of Raloric the Kinslayer is ended.”

            The next instant, the goddesses were gone and the spell they’d cast gone with them. The assembled nobles stared at Shatris for a long moment. One knelt and another and soon all of them had dropped to one knee in front of their new queen.

            Shatris looked over them and settled down on the throne. “Rise.” She smiled at them as they did. “Tomorrow I will hold court again and there I will begin taking your oaths to me, your queen. My heralds will deliver your appointments to you today. After court today, I will meet with my privy council and we will discuss the state of the,” she smiled slightly, “queendom.” Her eyes sought out Iain. “My Lord Grey?”

            Iain stepped forward. “Your Majesty.”

            “Please be so kind as to bring my family and their guards here as soon as possible.”

            They didn’t have guards, but Iain would make sure they did before they came to the capital. “They will arrive before nightfall, Your Majesty. If I may take your leave?”

            She smiled at him. “Of course, Lord Grey. I wish you a good day and I will see you tonight.”

            “Let’s go,” Iain said quietly and the four of them made their way quietly out of the throne room as Shatris continued addressing her new subjects.


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

Dianthus – Elfqueen

Candace – Nurse Joy (kami)

Bellona – Dragonqueen

Elizabeth - Vampire


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

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

Alabaster – Dragoness (white)

Onyx – Dragoness (black)

Lapis – Dragoness (blue)

Garnet – Dragoness (red)

Iolite – Dragoness (purple)

Malachite – Dragoness (green with white swirls)

Dabria (was Loviatar) – Dark Queen

Omisha (was Hel) – Demoness

Viersunuth great wyrm blue true dragoness

Talyl – drow commoner

Zarza – drow commoner

Sabrae – drow commoner

Sintree – drow commoner

Alyfaen Dinaen – drow, matron of House Dinaen

Phaerxae Dinaen – drow, former matron of House Dinaen, mother of Alyfaen

Selsharra of Evermeet



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)