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One Hundred Twenty Three
Year Seven Hundred
Iain looked up when the door to his lab opened and Zilvra came in, followed by Helesatra and Arithallos. “Ladies.” He smiled at them. “What’s the occasion?”
Helesatra’s golden eyes crinkled as she grinned widely enough to show her fangs. “You don’t know, do you?”
“It’s not a birthday and it’s not an anniversary.” He frowned and then shrugged. “Nope. I don’t know.”
Zilvra gave him a serious look. “Iain, it’s time and we came to see our husband off.”
“Time for what?”
“Centuries ago,” Arithallos said, “we contacted your twee and asked for a countdown. It’s been seven hundred years since you came here.”
I fudged the count I gave them. You have about an hour before the official mark of five hundred years since you stepped through the gate that led to this universe. You went back in time two hundred years and six days, so it has already been seven hundred years, but I didn’t want to try to explain that kind of precision to them.
Iain sat, stunned, for a long moment. “I didn’t realize it.” He got up and came around the table to face the three women. “Are you worried that I won’t come back or something?”
Arithallos took his hand. “Iain, you love us. The only way you won’t come back to us is if you die. We all know that. We love you and we wanted to come and see you before you left to go on the first part of your trip.”
“You haven’t forgotten your mission,” Helesatra said as she pulled out a stool and sat down. Her tail lashed slowly behind her as she watched him amusedly.
“I’ve been busting my ass for the last five hundred years to do a good job on that damned thing,” Iain said. “I haven’t forgotten it for an instant. I just didn’t keep close track of time. I knew my twee would tell me when I was done with everything and didn’t otherwise concern myself about it. You ladies surprised me because I’ve still got an hour, which is just enough time to gather some things before I go.” He shook his head. “Wow.”
“What is it,” Zilvra asked.
“I should feel scared or excited or something like that. I still have to get this work approved, after all.”
“What do you feel?”
“I’m glad the mission part is over. It’s always been a distraction from what was important.”
“Us?” Arithallos asked teasingly.
“Yes. You and the others.”
“We are already packed.” Zilvra said. “So whether we go there or they come here doesn’t matter to us. We realize it may take a month or so for you to return and we’re not going to sit around pining for you. Ari has things she has to do and Helesatra still has a queendom to run. I’ll be heading off to Kilifi. The evil drow have been seen in the area and I’m going to take another look at the defenses and see if Krelas needs any help.” Kilifi was their first Underdark colony. It was run by their son, Krelas, who had a distinct tendency to overestimate his colony’s military might. It was targeted by the unrepentant drow since it was filled with drow who did not worship the Spider Queen. Inevitably there would be a major attack on it, but the colony had been built with the understanding that its presence would mean war with the drow. The entire design process and, now, the construction had kept that one fact firmly in mind. The location had been chosen both to ensure the colony’s survival and was far enough from any drow city to ensure a long trip for any attackers with very long, vulnerable supply lines to disrupt if someone was dumb enough to try to siege the colony.
“Should I go with you?”
“You will return before there can be any insurmountable problems,” Zilvra told him. “And delaying this will not make it go any easier for you. Go.”
Helesatra got up, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Don’t worry, Iain. We aren’t. You have loved these women during all of the years that have passed. You love us just as much. You are not going to forget us in a month or even a year. It’s not how you are.”
Arithallos kissed him next. “Don’t be gone too long or I’ll help Xune break into your hoard and we’ll divide all of your treasures between us.”
“Who decides what is too long?”
She smiled broadly. “I do.”
“Great. That means you’ll start as soon as I leave.”
Her smile widened. “It might.”
Zilvra stepped into his arms. “Go, but hurry back.” She kissed him tenderly. “Now, we’ve all got things to do and, more importantly, so do you. Do them and come back to us.”
Iain nodded. “I will.”
“That we have never doubted,” Helesatra said as she headed for the door. “Come back as soon as you can.”
Iain watched them leave and leaned back against the bench. “Well, fuck.” He closed his eyes and practiced his deep breathing exercises for a few minutes before opening them again. Then he went around his desk and wrote something down on a scrap of parchment. “Malachite.”
The green and white Dragoness left her place on his shoulder and appeared. “My lord.”
Iain opened a portal. “You will use this to return to One. You’ll come out on the Danger Room. After showing this to Theodora, ask her to find April and give this to her. It’s a note telling her when I’ll arrive there so she can be waiting. Then you can come back through the gate to here.”
Malachite took the note. “Yes, my lord.” She walked through the gate. A few seconds later, she returned. “The mission is completed, my lord. Theodora wished me to tell you that there is a new protocol for returning.” She held out a data chip. “Your phone can read this, my lord.”
Iain took the chip. “Thank you. It’s probably what Ygerna told me about, but I’ll make sure nothing has changed. Now get back on me.” She did. “Matilda.”
White smoke poured off of his arm and became the White Tigress. “Yes, my lord?”
Iain reached out with his twee as he took her hand. Phantasmal Surveyor, I want you to send a shuttle to the Observatory.
Her response was instant. The shuttle will arrive in forty two minutes and seventeen seconds, sir.
She wasn’t alive but Iain didn’t want to lose the habits that he’d need with Theodora and Daya. Thank you. “Matilda, take me to the Observatory.”
“Yes, my lord.” She cast teleport and they were standing in a featureless room with only a single light giving off a dim light. It had one exit and Matilda let Iain go. He headed for the exit. “Thank you, Matilda.”
“You are very welcome,” she said as she grabbed his shoulder and pulled him to a halt. He looked back at her and her fangs gleamed in her smile. “Even with the electronic surveillance here, my lord, I should clear the room before you enter it.”
Iain shrugged. “Go ahead.”
She was back a moment later. “It’s clear.”
Iain headed into the next room, which was filled with computer equipment. The lights were dim in here too, and the air was cool and dry. Systems check shows no abnormalities, his twee reported.
“Eirian.” Silver smoke poured off his left arm to become the silver Dragoness. “Everyone off and get to the Chult complex. I don’t want you around when I bring Nightraven here.”
“If she watches you,” Sorrel said as she left him along with the others on his body, “she must know of our existence.”
“She probably does, but she’s never allowed you in her home and I don’t want her to start blasting you out of existence here. You’re kind of important to me.”
“Thank you,” Sorrel said. “You are important to me. I mean us.”
“Go.” He moved to a panel as they vanished and tapped a button. Sheets of stone three meters thick slid upwards to reveal large windows made with synthetic sapphire panes. They showed the Observatory was built into a mountain and overlooked a river where it turned into a waterfall and dropped out of sight below. Below, the river became a line of silver that ran away from the view and into a large body of water. Someday, the mountains would be the Hazur Range and the water would be the Shining Sea, putting the Observatory several hundred miles to the east of Chult’s most eastern border.
Iain opened a gate. “Into the maelstrom,” he muttered as he stepped through it, emerging at his exit point in the forest near Nightraven’s castle. Dark clouds were gathering overhead and lightning flared from several of them. He ran for the castle, stopping at the door. “Good morning, may I enter?” The door swung open. “Thank you.” He stepped inside and paused as the door closed. “Do you know where the mistress is?” Nothing happened. “Well, it was worth a shot. Thank you anyways.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “Time to pull the pin. Lady, I have returned.”
Come to the library. Caintigern is here.
“Oh, yay,” Iain muttered as he headed for the stairs. “I wonder if her presence will help or hurt.”
The two women were sitting at the table nearest the stairs and watched him as he came down the stairs. “Your hair is long,” Caintigern noted.
“Ladies,” Iain said in greeting. He glanced over his shoulder at his waist length braid. “I grew it out while I was gone, but that was centuries ago and I don’t even think about it anymore.”
Nightraven nodded. “Do you believe your mission is complete?”
“The task you gave me is complete,” Iain replied.
“Do you believe I will find your work to be acceptable?”
“You will. I have five hundred years of detailed information on how the world’s history progressed. I paid particularly close attention to how it differed from the history that happened here, at least as best I could. Are you ready to see it?” Iain produced a thick book from the air and offered it to her.
She didn’t reach for it. “This is hardly what I expected.”
“It’s only the precis.” She gave him a blank look and he smiled. “This is a short summary of the actual report, broken up by decade and then by continent or major island in the case of places like Evermeet. I thought you’d want to see this first and then the report itself and finally, the raw data, if you were interested in that too.”
“Do you have the raw data with you?”
“No, it and the final report are back on the Toril you sent me to, in a place called the Observatory. Everything is prepared and the report and the raw data are both ready for review when we go there.”
“Why did you not bring the information with you?”
Iain had a digital copy of it, but Nightraven hadn’t ever expressed interest in digital storage. “The packing would have taken months and then I would have had to unpack it, sort it, shelve it and then double check the sort for accuracy. This way everything is neatly organized and ready for your review when we get there. I’ve got everything set up so we can go into as much or as little detail as you might want.”
Caintigern smiled at him. “My grandniece has told me of the mission she gave you. What do you think is the most obvious difference in the history that she knows and gave you and the place you were observing?”
Caintigern raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Because of my presence, the Crown Wars ended very differently, the political landscape of the world is rather different and much of the power structure of the world is not anything like what Nightraven’s histories show. She sent copies of her notes with me that covered this world’s history during that time in the library selection she gave to me before I left. As soon as I had time, I read them in detail before I started my data collecting.” He smiled disarmingly. “I have everything ready in the Observatory for you to look at. Shall we step outside so I can open a gate there or do you want to go to Toril from here and then go to the Observatory in two steps?”
Nightraven shook her head. “I do not want to go anywhere.”
Iain’s smile faded. “Then you have the precis.”
She cocked her head. “You know what I want.”
“I do now. I did not know then and so I did not set things up to bring everything here. You were unclear and let me decide how I was going to organize everything in this mission, so I did. And before you tell me to run and fetch what you want, I estimate that would take me a few years to do properly.”
“You have been gone for five hundred years,” Nightraven pointed out. “What is a few more?”
“You told me to do this. You did not tell me to do this in a particular manner, which you always do for everything else that you have ever wanted done a particular manner and so I did it the way I thought best. It is done and, when you look at it, you’ll find that it was done very well.”
Nightraven’s eyes narrowed slightly and she rose to her feet. “Are you telling me that you are not going to go and bring what I want brought here to here as I want?”
“No, I am not, at least not immediately. I’ll go get it if you insist that I do, but I am going to see my family first.”
Caintigern took one of the cups on the table and filled it from the pitcher. “You are no longer afraid of Nightraven, are you?”
“I decided a few centuries ago that I can’t live my life in fear of either of you, especially if we are supposed to be mates. I worked through my fear. I respect the hell out of both of you and I value what you both have done for me, but no, I’m not afraid of either of you anymore. That’s actually a good thing for both of you since it means I’ll willingly help you and I don’t work well while being coerced.” He smiled at a thought. “Although we’re going to have some fights about our children.”
Nightraven was looking unhappily at him. “What do you mean?”
“When we have children, I’m going to love them and I’m going to raise them to be the absolute strongest they can be at whatever they want to be. I realize that both of you hate what happened to the royal bloodline. I realize that both of you want vengeance on Blacktooth’s family and minions. Although it’s not my fight, not really, I agreed to help you and I will. It’s going to be bloodbath, and that’s if we win. I realize that if Blacktooth’s people ever find us, they will do their damnedest to blot us out of existence and I will teach our children all of that so they’re prepared for that eventuality. But I am not going to want to turn our children into weapons for your hatred and we are going to clash if that’s what you intend to do. Teach them about their past, the destruction of their inheritance and legacy and enlist their aid in regaining it, fine. Demand it, sure, even though they can say no. But restrict their lives so as to ensure that helping us get revenge is the only option that they believe is theirs except for certain death,” he shook his head. “No. I won’t raise my children that way.”
Caintigern was watching him shrewdly. “You did as April wanted and have had mates and raised children.”
“Were any of them People?”
“I think they’re all people, but no, they’re not of our race. I didn’t encounter any living members of our race.”
Nightraven raised an eyebrow. “Did you encounter any who were dead?”
“You made a mistake when you checked to see if there was an analog of yours on that world. I figure you searched for your energy signature, yes?”
She nodded. “That is correct.”
“That’s because your analog, who was there, was already dead.” Nightraven’s eyes widened slightly. “During my information gathering I realized that there was an almost identical copy of this building in the same place this one is.”
“What did you do?”
“You showed me how to access the wards if you were killed, remember? I figured you’d set those up back in the beginning and never changed them, so I tested the outer wards to see if they reacted correctly. They did, but the defenses weren’t exactly like yours. Still, I was able to puzzle out the differences and gained access to the tower. Inside I found the corpse of a different Nightraven. She’d been dead for some time and I suspect she willed herself to death in a depressive episode.”
Nightraven started to speak and stopped. She stood silently for several seconds before nodding. “That is possible. I almost did that on certain occasions that took place during that time in my life. What have you done with the body?”
“I interred it in a crypt I built in the tower after I went through the library and found some information on funerary customs among the People. The noble bloodline gets put in a crypt.”
“You can access the library?”
“I made the proper key,” Iain said quietly. “The place and its contents are mine now.”
“I want to visit it.”
Iain smiled. “Since we’re going to that Toril, we can go by the Observatory first and then to my castle. I think all three of us should pool our resources, but until I get full access to your library you don’t get full access to mine.”
“When we return to Earth,” Caintigern said, “I need your help. I will require a place to put my library so we can pool our resources.”
“You have no library,” Nightraven pointed out.
“I carry my library in my mind,” Caintigern replied. “And I can make those memories into real books easily enough if I have a place to keep them.”
“We’ll figure something out,” Iain said. “Are we leaving for the Observatory now?”
“Yes. I must judge your work.”
“How many mates do you have,” Caintigern said as she stood.
“According to the prejudices of the People,” Iain noted, “just you two.”
“How many mates do you have among the races of this world we are going to?”
“So few? You have many on Earth.”
Iain chuckled. “Yes, and they’re still my family. I wanted to be very careful about adding to it, no matter where I am.”
“What would you have done if a dragoness of the People had appeared during your mission?”
“I’d have been polite, like I try to be to everyone in the beginning when I meet strangers.”
“What if she had wanted you to be her mate?”
Iain shrugged as he headed for the stairs and the women followed. “First of all, the game of what if can go on forever. Second, while I know that dragonesses can share a drake without a war breaking out, she wouldn’t have been from your royal bloodline since you two are the only known survivors. Third, there is a royal bloodline that I want to avoid like the plague and I don’t know how to identify it. Finally, and this is a problem we’re going to have to deal with, I don’t want to have children with someone unless we’re in a relationship and, hopefully, in love.” He smiled slightly. “Surprisingly, I did miss both of you, but I don’t love you and I am not going to think of having children as a duty to be carried out.”
Caintigern eyed his back as they climbed the stairs. “By your own admission you have little affection for us. Why would you miss us?”
“I think it’s because I am trying to think of you as family since we are going to eventually have children.” His braid swung to the right as he glanced over his shoulder at them. “You both are well within the type for the women I’m attracted to. You’re attractive, strong willed and intelligent. I think it’s your prejudices that’s kept me from considering pursuing either of you.”
Nightraven’s voice was curious. “Of what prejudices do you speak?”
“It’s a cultural issue that the People have and it involves your refusal to accept that the other women in my life are people just as much as you are.”
“I have met April,” Caintigern said from behind him as they exited the landing on the ground floor and headed for the door, “a few days ago when she invited me to join the clan.” Iain managed to hide his shock as she continued. “I am beginning to understand why you insist that they are people of a sort and worthy of our time, even if they are not of the People, and I find myself considering that your insistence about them may have more merit than I originally thought.”
“Hi,” Iain said to the door. “We’d like to exit, please.” It swung open. “Thank you.” He headed through and stopped to wait for the others. “Caintigern, that’s a start.” A portal opened in front of them. “This exits in the entrance room to the Observatory. Ladies first.”
“Are your mates there,” Nightraven asked.
“It’ll just be the three of us,” Iain reassured her.
“You carefully keep your mates away from me, don’t you?”
“I do. I am well aware that you do not value the lives of those that aren’t important to you somehow and I do not want to risk you obliterating someone I want to keep alive.”
“A dragoness of the People would not tolerate your attitude,” she said before she stepped into the gate. Caintigern followed and Iain took up the rear.
He closed the gate behind him as he looked at Nightraven. “You asked me a question and I responded with the truth. My attitude was neutral. If a dragoness of the People cannot tolerate the truth because she finds it unpalatable, then she won’t have to deal with me because I don’t lie to people unless I have a good reason to and I won’t be involved with her. As for you specifically, you have always insisted I be truthful with you, something I appreciate.”
“Some dragonesses will claim you because of your size and only later discover that you have an attitude that they don’t like,” Caintigern said. “They will seek to correct it and will not want to let you leave them.”
“Then I’ll seduce her and, when I’m mounting her, I’ll drive something long and sharp into her brain.” Caintigern stared at him in shock and he shrugged. “I will not let someone punish me if I am doing nothing wrong and I am no one’s slave. As for the corpse, making it disappear isn’t that difficult. I’d leave the dwelling she was using and, if asked, tell people that she found a drake she liked better and told me to leave or suffer her wrath. I’d even sound like I was upset at being dumped.”
“You are insane.”
“I hope not because you’re placing your war in my hands.” He smiled. “I don’t think I’m insane, but how could I know?” He led them into the main room of the Observatory. “Don’t mind the electronics since I know you don’t like them.” He touched a place on the wall and a section ten feet by ten feet slid open. Light appeared inside to reveal a large room that extended into the distance. In the room was a collection of small tables near the front. Rows of shelves marched away from the tables to fill the visible rest of the chamber. All of the shelves were filled with books. “The books are the report. Each set of shelving covers a specific decade and there are fifty rows of shelves to cover all five hundred years. The color coded strips on the shelving correspond to the continents and major islands that existed during the time I was gathering the information you wanted. On the front wall is a painting that is the key to which color corresponds to what region.” He glanced back at the two women. “The precis is broken up to match the shelves as a general guide. Where would you like to start?”
Iain stepped through the gate into the Observatory and turned to watch it close behind him. He waited until the last remnants of energy had faded before going to press the hidden button that closed the library and the paper copy of the report that Nightraven had spent the last tenday skimming through before finally pronouncing it to be satisfactory. They’d spent an additional five days reviewing specific audio records to show Nightraven and Caintigern how useful modern surveillance equipment could be for their crusade. Then he’d taken them back to Nightraven’s castle.
“System to standby.” The lights dimmed as the computers shifted to their normal operations mode as the shutters slid over the windows. The computers were still gathering information since Iain hadn’t stopped them and, for now, he didn’t really care. Besides, it might be useful.
Eirian, they’re gone. You and the rest of the harem who is available can return to me. Selsharra, you can too.
The complex was set up to shunt any attempts to teleport, ethereal travel and other possible means of entering the Observatory to the entrance room, so it was unsurprising when Sorrel, Matilda and Rhea came from there. A few seconds later, Selsharra also emerged from it.
“We are your guards today, my lord,” Matilda said before the three flashed into smoke and rode him.
The baelnorn looked him up and down. “You are unhurt?”
Iain gave her a weak smile. “I think so. It’s been what seems like forever and it is most stressed I think I’ve been in a very long time. I am exhausted. My magic keeps me going, but I feel it down deep inside.”
“Then go to bed. Your family will want you rested when you return to them.”
“I intend to, I just wanted you and my harem back with me.”
She cocked her head. “Are you too dependent on our presence?”
“No, I don’t think so. I haven’t ever freaked out when I wasn’t with you and I didn’t feel like it was a problem this time either. It’s just that you belong with me.”
“How is my analog going to take my existence and my duty?”
“You’re not interfering with hers except possibly when Kasserine, Ava and I have children, so she shouldn’t have a problem with it. Kasserine, on the other hand,” he shrugged. “She’s been alone for a very long time and she’s latched on to me pretty strongly. I don’t mind. I love her after all, but I think she takes the whole bit about her being the gatekeeper to me having a relationship with another moon elf pretty seriously.”
“Is that why you did not pay court to Shatris?”
“She’s not my type.”
“She is pretty, smart and strong willed.”
Iain shrugged. “I disagree. She’s pretty, but she’s of average intelligence and she had to learn to be strong when she became queen. Kasserine is like you. She’s pretty and she’s like her children as well as you and is a genius. And she can be extremely strong willed when she wants to be, again like her children and you, you pushy wench.”
Selsharra chuckled. “The Kasserine that I remember was that way too. Entirely too smart for her own good and much smarter than her sister, which led to many problems.” She smiled. “She would have made a great ruler.”
Iain nodded. “That’s why my wife is in the line for becoming the Grey. She’d probably do a better job than I have.” He yawned abruptly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a nap. Do you want to ride me or are you off to do something else?”
Selsharra smiled. “I have missed your presence in my life, Iain. You’re my friend and I don’t have many of those. I’d like to ride you for a time.” She turned to smoke and poured onto his shoulder blade.
He headed into the entrance chamber, reaching out with his twee as he did. Mielikki, did you feel Nightraven’s presence? She was here to review and put her stamp of approval on my project.
It was unmistakable and I had to explain it to Eilistraee, who is mildly put out that you didn’t warn us about her arrival. What was the other powerful presence with her?
That was Caintigern.
She was here too? I wasn’t aware that she knew Nightraven.
Now you know that she does.
He felt her curiosity as he cast a teleport spell that moved him to his laboratory. Can you explain more?
It turns out they knew each other already and I reintroduced them. I’m going to the Danger Room tomorrow, after I get some sleep. You coming too?
Not right now. Eilistraee and I are investigating a critical realignment of power in which her mother has mysteriously lost one of her most powerful servants and nobody seems to know what has happened to him.
Iain blinked. Oh. Yeah. That.
He felt her attention instantly focus completely on him. What did you do?
This is about Wendonai, right?
Mielikki appeared. An instant later, Eilistraee joined her. Mielikki gave him a serious look. “Iain, what do you know about this?”
Iain looked at the ceiling for a second before opening a gate. “This goes to Thirteen. Come with me.” He stepped through into a forest of redwood trees in what would have been California. Mielikki and Eilistraee followed and Iain sealed the gate with a force field. “Long story or short story?”
“Let’s start with the short story,” Eilistraee said.
“I captured Wendonai’s soul and sold it to one of the Powers in the Lands of the Dead. He won’t be back.”
Mielikki eyed him curiously. “What did you get for it?”
“They won’t fast forward time for my family or clan again, even when I try to rescue them.”
“You could have asked for much more from them,” Mielikki was watching him. “You didn’t want anything else.”
Eilistraee rested her hand on Iain’s arm. “Why did you do it and why are we here?”
“Nobody can overhear this conversation here, especially not your mother,” Iain replied. “As for why I sold Wendonai, two reasons. He was a test case for something else that I wanted to do. I was planning to capture a pit fiend’s soul. Balor and pit fiends aren’t that different as far as power levels and energy go, so he was a good first test. Second,” his eyes met Eilistraee’s, “now he can’t ever hurt you.”
Eilistraee looked puzzled for a few seconds before her eyes widened. “You said that another Wendonai killed an analog of me. You wanted to prevent that from being a possibility with me.” Her eyes softened. “My mother is going to be extremely angry with you if she ever finds out what happened.”
“That’s why we’re here discussing this, where she can’t see or hear us. Besides, your mother is always angry, mostly at how the failures of everyone around her is why she’s not the head of the elven pantheon right now. If she didn’t have such incompetent minions she’d be much more successful because she never makes mistakes. She is almost a classic narcissistic psychopath.” He smiled humorlessly. “And she doesn’t have a huge fucking ego, either. Just ask her.”
Eilistraee laughed. “You really don’t like my mother, do you?”
“Your mother is thoroughly evil. But she’s not good at being evil. She’s so self-absorbed she’s never going to achieve anything quantitative and she’s made the drow just as useless as she is. The only reason they’re even somewhat successful is because they’re slightly more powerful as a group than they are incompetent and they’re a lot more powerful than almost anything else that lives in the Underdark except maybe the aboleths and the beholders, whom they have little contact with. I don’t mind her being a huge failure, but for some reason I seem to have a soft place in heart for several drow, including one of my goddesses.” He sighed. “Sorry, I shouldn’t talk badly about your mother to you. You still care for her. I don’t get why, but you do.”
“She’s my mother,” Eilistraee said simply. “I remember what she was before and I want her to be that again. I know she won’t ever return to what she was, but I can still dream.” Her tone turned bitter and angry. “But the dark elves were mine and she stole them from me and made them into the drow. I can never forgive her for that.”
Mielikki grinned. “Someone needs an Iain hug.”
Eilistraee gave him a hopeful look. “Could I get one?”
“Come here.” He hugged her gently, wrapping her up in his arms and she sighed contentedly as she rested her head on top of his.
Mielikki winked at Iain. “You do know you’re shoving your naked tits into his face. He’s probably harder than iron right now.”
“Shut up,” Eilistraee said, but Iain could hear some of her normal amusement was back in her voice. “Your jealousy is so transparent.”
Iain tried to glare at her but her breasts didn’t seem to care how hard he looked at them so he tried speaking. “Are you stealing my silly sayings too?”
Eilistraee laughed as she stepped back from him. “My father and the rest of the elven pantheon find your sayings very confusing, which makes using them a great deal of fun.”
“I’ve been teaching her your Texas sayings too,” Mielikki offered with an infectious grin. “Now those confuse everyone for a while.”
“Great, now you’re picking on me.” Iain shook his head. “I think I’ll just go home and let all the horny women console me for that. You coming?”
Eilistraee snickered. “Obviously she isn’t. She’s much louder then.”
Mielikki shook her head with a smile. “I am not. There are a few things I want to complete before I return. You know that this is my home too, now, just as it is yours.”
“I know. You know, you’d think that, perhaps for once, I’d do something that makes my life simpler instead of more complicated.”
Eilistraee patted his cheek gently. “The three of us are all well aware of your tendency towards destructive behavior, both self-destructive as well as destructive towards your surroundings, when you’re bored, Iain, so it’s hardly surprising that you dedicate some of your hours to making sure you are never in that situation.” She gave him a fond smile. “If you didn’t keep yourself busy, we would.”
“Yeah, well, the conversations I’m going to have to have about what I’ve done here should be anything but boring.”
“The women who love you gave you permission to have a family here,” Mielikki pointed out. “If they didn’t fully consider the ramifications of that allowance, it isn’t your fault. And they were right about Zilvra’s, Ari’s and Helesatra’s love keeping you on the path of goodness more often than not. Now they must face those ramifications. I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as difficult as you think it will be.”
“Considering that I think it might get my liver carved out, roasted and then fed back to me along with a side order of kidneys and lungs, I hope you’re right. That still leaves a lot of room for a bunch of very angry women with superpowers to make their unhappiness known for a long time.” Iain shook his head. “I’m kibitzing again. Very little scares me, but the possibility of disappointing the women I love is terrifying.”
“And as long as it is,” Mielikki said gently, “you will never succumb to the evil that swirls inside you.”
“I hope so.” He squared his shoulders. “Ladies, as you can guess, I’d prefer that what we discussed stay here. I’m not invoking, and, even if I tried to, you’re both goddesses and Eilistraee is still an outlander, so it’s not binding anyways.”
“I believe I have almost talked her into becoming clan,” Mielikki said.
Eilistraee laughed at the suddenly shocked expression on Iain’s face. “She has. I want to meet these women you love so much and who love you that I have been glowingly told about first, so I will be coming to One soon.”
“Can I warn Ava and Dancer about this?”
“You may not. I want to see them before they know who I am. You are not to tell anyone about my plans.”
Iain nodded. “You’re the Lady. I would like to be told before you arrive, though. I’ll have to warn Kerrik so he doesn’t turn up looking to cause trouble, but he can keep secrets.” He looked at Mielikki. “I will also want to warn Kerrik the instant you two set food on One. You’ve changed a lot and he doesn’t know much about Eilistraee. And his opinion of drow is pretty much the standard one for surface dwellers who’ve been ambushed by them.”
“You may tell Kerrik about us and what has changed. I’ll send word through Theodora and Daya before we cross over. Do I need to follow clan protocol on my return?”
Iain chuckled. “Would the results make any sense to Theodora?”
“I can make sure they do and follow the protocols so they give the predictable results she will want to find.”
“Then please follow them as an example for the others. And it will let Theodora get a baseline on Eilistraee if she does the same.” He blinked and shook his head. “I’m going to need a bigger arena if you two and Vanessa are going to be sparring in it.”
“We’ll go somewhere else to play,” Mielikki said. “Now, you need to return to One while Eilistraee and I go back to Twenty Three. This place is a good location for you to transit from since you can get a couple of days of rest here before you return and you don’t have to worry that Zilvra or someone will call to see if you’re available while doing so.” She headed for the still open gate. Iain dropped his force field as she approached it. “Come, my sister.”
Eilistraee waved as they entered the gate. It closed behind them as Iain sighed. “Matilda, off. I’d like you to take me to the Africa facility here. It’s got a comfortable bed.”
She appeared and took his hand. “Yes, my lord.” They vanished.
Theodora appeared as the gate closed behind Iain. “Welcome back.” She gave him a broad smile. “Thank you for emerging in the door room as requested.”
Iain smiled back, not commenting as the war machine that guarded this chamber rotated its main guns to point them at him. “It is so good to see you again.” He smiled. “As per protocol, I’m uploading my memories while you guide me to medical.”
“Thank you for cooperating,” Theodora said as a guide globe appeared. “Please follow the ball of light.”
Iain dropped his pack on the floor. “I hope that April is waiting for me somewhere.”
Theodora’s smile became a grin. “She is. I’d let her wait here, but then you wouldn’t actually make it to medical for a while.”
“The floors here tend to be pretty uncomfortable. I think I can wait until we get to a bed,” Iain chuckled as he followed the light. “I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Have you considered building a secondary medical right outside the door chamber and putting everything you need for the new protocols in it to cut down on the time required to process people? If nothing else, transit time between here and medical and then to wherever they go next will go away.”
Theodora blinked and then grinned. “I have missed you so much! I’ll make the necessary modifications immediately.”
“That’s good because I’m just the idea guy. I want my memories covered under standard privacy, but you may want to start an Iain database to go with the ones for Kerrik’s and Ygerna’s knowledge. However, the stuff from the tower is restricted until I say otherwise.”
“What is the level of restriction?”
“I’d like to say it’s restricted to me only and not even you or Daya, but I won’t do that to you. Just us three. And that does not include the next Grey or anyone else if I get killed.”
Theodora nodded slowly. “I’m looking at what you’re talking about and I agree. Only we three have access.” She looked at him thoughtfully. “I’ve put the rule into effect. For the duration, I think I’ll suggest it be indefinite with a review every one hundred years. What do you think?”
“Agreed,” from Iain. “Time starts, now.”
“Timer set,” Theodora said.
“So, why hasn’t Daya joined us? Did you two have a spat?”
“She is in a different dimension with Marguerite, Zareen and Dominique.”
Iain frowned. “Which one?”
“This one doesn’t have a number yet. The one you came from is Twenty Three, so this will be Twenty Four.”
“Why are they there?”
“Ninhursag sent them there to meet with Morticia Addams and her family.”
“The Morticia that I met in her solarium?”
“Yes. She wanted to introduce you to her daughter, Wednesday.”
“I remember the conversation perfectly well. I didn’t intend to go back there.”
“No, but they are a powerful family of powerful individuals and we need to grow.”
“Shit.” Iain rubbed his eyes. “Any report of their progress?”
“Daya has been giving daily reports. Things are progressing well.”
“Bloody hell. Anything else?”
“There are many things I will need to report later, but right now, it has been requested that you not do your reset until after you talk to April.”
“Now what is going on?”
“I’d like to let her explain it.”
Iain nodded. “Very well. I’ll wait.” He followed the light into medical and stripped, folding his clothes and laying them on top of the closest medic. “Do I need to remove my undead guards?”
“They don’t interfere with your medical procedures, so no,” Theodora said as the medic opened.
Iain climbed in, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Lay on Macduff.” The medic slid closed over him.
Iain looked at the possession detector. “So what happens if I grab the handle, scream, writhe around and fall to the floor?”
Theodora folded her arms. “The tank in the door chamber is frightened by stupidity and it might accidentally run over your toes the next time you’re in the door room.”
“Oh.” Iain smiled. “I have a list of all the parts of my body that are still original equipment and have never been cut off and reattached or regrown. All of my toes are on that list and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Theodora smiled back at him. “Then I hope you don’t scream and flail around when you grab that handle. Not to mention I’d have to put you in stasis until Mielikki returned to verify you haven’t been possessed.”
Iain chuckled softly. “If I remember correctly, I can’t get laid in stasis, can I?”
“Well, damn. Sounds like I don’t want to go into stasis, either.” He grabbed the handle. “How long do I need to hold it?”
Theodora smirked at him. “You don’t know?”
“I didn’t design or build this, so no.”
“Dominique built it.”
Iain released the handle. “Then it’s set for immediate results unless the scan has to take a longer interval. Of course, you already know this since Dominique would have given you instructions on what to expect when this is used by someone.”
Theodora grinned. “I have missed you and you’re right. You pass.”
“Great. Where to now?”
He turned when the door to medical slid open to reveal April standing there. “Iain!” She launched herself at him and he caught her in his arms as she slammed into him and burrowed her face into his neck.
He held her as she breathed in his scent and her breath was warm and moist on his skin. “You’re safe, my love. I’m real.”
“I am such a stupid fucking idiot,” she murmured into his neck.
He chuckled. “Why, I’m doing well and I have a lot of interesting news.” She looked up at him with a tear streaked face. “Why are you castigating yourself?”
“I’m the idiot who came up with the idea of you being gone for five days,” she said. She smiled when Iain used his thumbs to gently wipe away her tears. “I forgot something critically important.”
“I’ve not seen you for that long before, but I have always had your presence with me because of our bond. The most I haven’t had that since we bonded was a few seconds. I can even feel you when I am in a pokeball or on the other side of a solar system. And then I sent you away for five days.” She shuddered. “It was terrible.”
“What it is, is over,” Iain kissed her forehead. “And you won’t let me do that again, will you?”
She shook her head violently. “You will never do that again if I have any say in the matter.” She sighed. “It also means that I can’t take you for testing like I normally do because I’m not the only woman who didn’t have your presence with her bond and many of them missed you as much as I did. They know you’re back.” She smiled wanly. “It’s a wonder they’re not all clamoring for attention in your head right now.”
“It’s not a wonder because they are and I’m reassuring them that I’ll be with each of them as soon as possible, but it’s not going to be right now. For the most part, they understand.”
She chuckled. “You didn’t say they agree.”
“That would be a lie and I’m not going to lie to you.”
“Good,” Ninhursag said from the doorway. April draped her arms around Iain’s neck and kissed him deeply before stepping back so Ninhursag could take her place. “For once, I am going to enjoy a perk of being the maharani.” Iain held her as she rested her cheek against the top of his head. “Dominique and some of the others are going to love your hair, but what’s with the ears?”
“I’ve been worshipping an elven goddess and the area around where I live is pretty much nothing but elves who aren’t necessarily all that fond of humans. I didn’t even think about changing back when I got here.”
He felt the motion as she nodded against the top of his head. “Ygerna told us what she saw and did. She said there were three women in your life at that time. What about now?”
“There’s a fourth who is interested in the concept, but when I met her, she liked to pretend to be dumber than she actually is and I don’t find that interesting. We occasionally spend some time together to see if we might be compatible, but it’s not anything serious right now. Why so few? I’ve always kept in my mind all of the women here that have chosen to spend at least a portion of their lives with me. While I was given permission to have loving relationships and I said I wouldn’t deliberately avoid them, I never intended to have so many that I might neglect any of you. I did have a lot of casual sexual relationships, some of which lasted for a long time.” He looked up at her. “I have my schedule for today or has that changed?”
Ninhursag smiled and started to say something only to stop and look thoughtfully at him for a moment. “I think it might be better for everyone if you did keep to your scheduled routine.” She smiled craftily. “Do I need to tell April to get Sofia and Bellona up here to fuck you senseless before you do?”
Can I invite her to join us this once, Iain asked April.
He felt her surprise and then a wave of wry amusement. You may and thank you for asking.
“I believe that the endurance testing is mandated by protocol,” Iain replied to Ninhursag’s question. “And there is much more than just sex, but there is sex to try and wear me down beforehand and it has become part of the tradition.” He reached up and ran a finger along the line of Ninhursag’s jaw, smiling to himself when she closed her eyes and shivered at his touch. “But I have been gone a very long time and I’m not sure that the three of them will be enough to tire me out sufficiently to make the next portions of the testing valid. Because of that, I’d appreciate it if you would be so kind as to stay and help with the first part. Would you?”
“I shouldn’t,” Ninhursag said slowly, but her eyes blazed with interest.
“Perhaps,” Iain took her hand, “but I think I am going to exercise a perk as the Grey and insist. You’ll just have to reschedule whatever it was you were going to be doing instead.”
I’ve notified Sofia and Bellona to meet us in the bedroom here that I’d set up for your return, April told Iain over their bond. But we won’t wait for them to arrive, will we?
Iain pulled gently on Ninhursag’s hand. “No argument, my love. Come along.” No, we won’t.
April sat and watched with fascination as Iain casually braided his mostly dry hair. After the final group shower, Bellona and Sofia had headed back to ranch while Iain had quietly requested that she and Ninhursag stay for a moment.
Ninhursag seemed equally bemused. “I can’t do that as easily as you do,” she said quietly.
Iain frowned and then grinned. “Oh, this? Yours is longer than mine and longer hair is harder to braid unless you have help. Zilvra’s is down to her calves and I usually braid it for her when she wants it braided. Between her hair and mine, I’ve had a lot of practice. I’ll be happy to braid yours if you want.” He tied off the braid with a black piece of silk cord. “So, April, why did Theodora tell me you don’t want me to do a reset until we’ve talked? That’s not our normal routine.”
“Ygerna suggested that we were doing you a disservice by having you lock away information or memories that you could use to survive and help us to survive,” April said. “Are we?”
Iain shrugged. “I’m not sure that disservice would be the right word. My resets tended to refresh my memories of my time here, before I left, so I could act appropriately and remember what had been going on, since it had been years since I was here, to me. It also let me limit the adverse issues that might crop up from being alone for so long.”
“What do you mean,” Ninhursag asked curiously.
“Certain survival behaviors and muscle memory actions that could aid my survival when I’m all alone and out on one of Nightraven’s little missions might not be the right response when the person jumping out at me is Rosemary trying to surprise me for a quickie and not a gnoll trying to skewer me so she can eat my kidneys before she moves on to the rest of my anatomy.” He stretched slowly. “But it doesn’t matter this time. I was still going to do the refresh but I wasn’t going to do a reset. I can’t because, this time, there are women I love in both universes. By the way, they’re looking forward to meeting you.”
Ninhursag looked surprised. “They know about us?”
“I didn’t think it fair not to tell them about you.”
April scooted forward. “And it wouldn’t be fair not to tell as about them in return. So, start with the telling, mister.”
Theodora, please show me what Ygerna told them already. Information flowed into his mind. Thank you.
You are more than welcome, Iain.
“Understand this is just going to be a thumbnail of them,” Iain began. “Zilvra is a drow and is the daughter of the matron, or ruler, of one of the most powerful noble houses in the city of Guallidurth, which is probably the most powerful drow city of all. Her mother is dead and one of her sisters is the matron now. The city is located miles underground, in a cavern complex called the Underdark that spans for thousands of miles in every direction. She’s the high priestess of Eilistraee in the valley and we met because she’d been found out as a worshipper of Eilistraee and fled the city. Her sister had captured her and some other refugees and was going to take them back to Guallidurth to be sacrificed to their patron goddess when I got involved. We have had four children together.”
“Yeah. The head goddess of the drow is Lolth and she is the Spider Queen, an evil goddess who has turned the drow into a race of evil beings who fight amongst themselves even more than they fight external foes. She’s big into male subservience at all levels, demons interbreeding with the drow to make them unsavable, assassination, infighting, torture and the sacrifice of sentient beings to her. She’s especially fond of the use of various toxins and the drow use them on each other as well as their external enemies.”
“Lovely,” April said.
Iain smiled. “Needless to say, Zilvra isn’t like that. I couldn’t love an unrepentant drow.”
“That’s good to hear. Now, please continue.”
“Helesatra is half sun elf and half pit fiend. Her mother was the crown princess of the Empire of Vyshaantar and her grandfather, the Emperor Morefin, made a deal with a pit fiend. The Empire had been chosen to be the recipient of a holy war declared on them by Corellon, the head god of the elven pantheon, for some really bad things the empire had been doing for the past several thousand years. All the elven kingdoms around the empire were encouraged to attack it. Morefin didn’t think they could successfully win in a war against everyone else and offered the pit fiend a deal. The pit fiend would be allowed to impregnate the crown princess. The child would be raised in court until it was eight years old and then would be turned over to Dragel, the pit fiend. In return for the child, Dragel would provide troops from the armies of Hell to help Morefin vanquish his enemies. He was powerful enough in hell to command his own military forces of some considerable power.”
“When Helesatra was still a child, some servant, who I suspect was an agent of Corellon’s smuggled her out of the castle when she was five. Ever since, she’s been on the run until a ship full of pirates attacked the Phantasmal Surveyor, which is the name of the support ship that Theodora provided for me to use while I was there. The pirates were defeated and captured. Helesatra was working as a combat mage as part of the pirate crew and almost immediately realized they’d been captured by liches. While a prisoner, she overheard Eirian and Aurum discussing potentially adding some of the female pirates to the undead harem, eventually deciding it wasn’t worth the effort. Helestra had been trying to find out how to become a lich in order to cheat her sire out of her soul forever and volunteered to join the undead harem without really understanding what she was asking for. When I first met her, she was already a lich. I liked her and helped her get revenge on her family for the crap they’d put her through.”
“How did she go from that to becoming your wife,” April asked.
“I got my hands on the rest of the nobles from her family as part of helping her get revenge on them. I asked her to allow herself to be brought back to life and to become the queen of the queendom that I wanted to replace the empire with and to do so as satellite clan. She had apparently fallen love with me during her time in the undead harem and proposed an alternative. Her counteroffer involved us getting married so she could be inner clan instead. Ygerna sided with her and they convinced me to agree. We’ve had three children.”
“Why do you keep telling us that,” Ninhursag asked.
“Because April wants to know and this way she doesn’t have to ask.”
Ninhursag looked at April curiously and the Duelist nodded. “He’s right. I don’t want to know but I do really want to know. More importantly, we need to know since these children are first in line to be the Grey.”
“That’s not true,” Iain said. “The hierarchy of the most qualified that was set up here is still in place. None of my children would do a better job, at least for the moment, than Ninhursag or Kasserine would. We’ll get into that in more detail later.”
“That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but very well,” Ninhursag said. “Tell us about the other two.”
“There’s just one. I don’t count Vivahdri since we aren’t in a romantic relationship, although I’ll tell you about her too.”
“Good. We need to know about her as much as the others if she wants to be involved with my husband,” April noted.
“Sure. Arithallos is a silver dragoness from a very respected clan in the silver dragon political arena. The mate she had before me, Kardolth, had taken a brain injury from a previous attack that sent him into periodic uncontrollable rages. During these, he attacked almost anything he ran across and, during one of them, he ran across me and tried to kill me. At that time, I was still getting my reputation established and evil dragons would attack me for a variety of reasons, one of which was I had established a territory of my own and was slowly clearing the chromatics out of it by killing them and taking their hoards. I was also quietly encouraging the metallics to move out of my territory, but I hadn’t attacked or even threatened anyone.” He shrugged. “I needed cash and the chromatic dragons were evil and had funds I could appropriate for my use. Anyway, I was busy minding my own business and suddenly I found myself under attack from some unknown silver dragon, who can sometimes be evil. I killed him and, as was my habit at the time, butchered him out for sale. Dragon parts fetch a good price and I didn’t have much use for the corpse otherwise. Unknown to me, Arithallos had been following Kardolth at a safe distance to keep an eye on him and she saw everything that happened. I investigated his cave a few days later and found a silver dragoness living there, so I didn’t clear it out.”
“How did you know where he lived?”
“My habit was to pull the memories of every powerful creature I kill. I have a computer set up to accept those memories so I don’t have to shove them into my head and live through their lives. I use the information they give me to find their homes and take their stuff. For dragons, I check for mates and offspring. Chromatic mates and already hatched offspring end up in my trophy room along with their relatives. Eggs get sold. Because Kardolth was a silver and so was his mate, I decided to leave her alone. I was only attacking evil dragons and Kardolth’s memories suggested she wasn’t a valid target. As far as I was concerned, she was a grieving dragoness and contacting her would more than likely end up with me having to kill her when she tried to get revenge for her mate’s death.”
Ninhursag gave him a puzzled look. “So how did she end up as your mate?”
“Xune, my first and adopted daughter, liked to explore the area around the valley while she was growing up and she met Arithallos during one of her jaunts. They became friends and, when Xune came of age and was getting ready to start her job as governess of Nambale, she didn’t want me to be alone and spent some time with Ari talking me up as a potential partner and possible mate. Ari was lonely and tempted, so Xune set up a meeting between us. Up until that point, Ari had thought I was a gold drake. Xune showed her an image of me and she realized I was the dragon who’d killed Kardolth and took the opportunity to confront me about it. I agreed to give her restitution and return Kardolth’s skull so she had something to inter. Later she decided she was still interested in me and sought me out for courtship.”
Ninhursag frowned. “You kept his head?”
Iain chuckled. “The first few dragons I killed included one that Viersunuth wanted revenge on and a red who had a tribe of kobolds working for him. Some of the kobolds wanted to work for the dragon strong enough to kill their dragon and went to work for me. Entirely without my knowledge, or I probably would have stopped them, they set up a trophy room with the skulls of both dragons. The kobolds came by to abuse the skull of their previous master, who didn’t treat them as well as I did, and Viersunuth gloated over the skull of the dragon that sold her into slavery. After that, they kept adding the skulls of every dragon or other powerful creature that I killed or was involved in killing. Eventually I found out about it, but by then it was a little too late to do anything about it without seriously insulting the kobolds and denigrating all of the effort they’d put into the trophy room. You’ll see it eventually.”
April frowned. “Who is Viersunuth?”
“She’s a blue dragoness and a member of my undead harem.”
“She’s not a pokegirl?”
“No, she’s a true dragon.”
“How many did you add to your undead harem?”
“Ten, counting Helesatra, so nine right now. And I lost one member, Geraldine, who I had destroyed.”
April frowned. “Why have your analog destroyed?”
“She was planning to break free and murder me and all of you. I couldn’t take a chance she might succeed.”
“Did she really have a chance,” April asked curiously.
“As long as those were her plans and as along as any chance she had of success was greater than zero, I was going to destroy her. Nobody hurts my family.”
“How many children do you have with Arithallos,” Ninhursag asked.
“Oh, sorry. Four.”
“So what about this fourth woman?”
“When I met Vivahdri, who is an adult gold dragoness, she was the mate of the king of the gold dragons. Nithraseth, which was his name, was a very old dragon who’d lost the love of his life, but he got lonely and his council of advisors wanted his noble bloodline to be preserved, so they came up with a scheme so that he got a temporary mate every century, picking her out from a select group of young dragonesses. One of Nithraseth’s issues, and the one that screwed up our friendship for several years, was that he couldn’t stand for people to be smarter than he was. It wasn’t much of an issue since he was a gold dragon and so a genius compared to humans and whatnot, but Vivahdri was much smarter than he was. The only reason their relationship continued to work was because she hid it from him by pretending to be somewhat of an airhead. Her other issue is that she’s very ambitious, but then she had to be to volunteer to have children by the king of the gold dragons.”
“What happened to her?”
“After she rotated out of being Nithraseth’s mate, she immediately became involved in a relationship with one of his captains. They stayed together for a century and a half until his jealousy over my friendship with her made him kick her to the curb. We had been corresponding the whole time and occasionally meeting up to talk. By then she’d become politically powerful enough on her own that she didn’t need him anymore. She was so busy being politically active that we lost touch until Nithraseth went into the Twilight, which is the time when a dragon’s physical and mental abilities enter a fairly rapid decline as their body prepares for death. He invited me to visit him again and to renew our friendship and I did. Meanwhile, Vivahdri had been told by her old mate about Nithraseth’s condition and she came by to pay her respects. We talked for a little bit and then she started sending me letters again as if she’d never stopped, even replying to my last letters that she had, up to this point, never responded to, which is why I stopped writing her. We went back to corresponding and eventually she came by to see the valley and to ask me to take her to Nambale so she could visit with Xune, whom she’d befriended when Nithraseth sired a child off Xune.” April gaped at him and he broke off. “What is it?”
“You were really gone for over five hundred years,” she said quietly. “I knew, but it hadn’t really sunk in. You sound like Lucifer does when she’s talking about some of the things that have taken place during her life. So much has changed for you.”
“You know the one thing that never changed,” Iain asked. He reached out and took her hand. “I never stopped loving you. I never stopped missing you.” He looked at Ninhursag. “You either. The goal of seeing my family here is what drove me to do the best job I could do for Nightraven so she wouldn’t keep me longer. I thought of you every morning and again every night.” He kissed April’s hand. “I will always come back to you.” He smiled. “Even when you send me away for five days straight.”
“We all agreed that it was a good idea,” Ninhursag protested. She shrugged. “And we were all wrong.”
“Well, we’ll make sure that things will be different next time,” Iain said.
April blinked. “Will there be a next time?”
“I’m pretty sure there will be. I’ll have to make regular trips back to the valley, if nothing else, and so will you.”
“What does that mean,” Ninhursag asked.
“I think we’ll have that discussion later, after I’ve made the rounds to see everyone and then maybe not until after I’ve taken you to see everything.” He stretched. “Theodora?”
She appeared. “Yes, Iain?”
“The next time Daya makes contact with you from Twenty Four, brief her on everything that’s happened. I want her to review what I’ve done towards the security setup on Twenty Three and get her evaluation on whether we can downgrade it to response team level and, if not, what I can do in order to get that downgrade.”
“I’ll give her a full briefing, Iain.”
“What’s your thought on the situation?”
“I’m sending Daya the data and reviewing the records you sent me while the gate generator is tuning. If what you’ve sent me is accurate and I don’t see where you’d have had the Phantasmal Surveyor make them up, I think that Daya will want to make a visit to Twenty Three to verify everything before she makes a determination. The situation is somewhat unique considering the presence of Grey Clan assets already on the planet and what you’ve accomplished with them.”
Iain nodded. “In the end, the final decision is hers.”
“She’ll be glad to hear you still trust her judgement.”
She grinned. “You’re welcome.” Then she vanished.
Ninhursag gave him a slightly concerned look. “About that,” she began.
Iain shook his head. “You are doing what you think is best for the clan and I have an idea about how much you agonized about bringing to my attention another human who will take up more of my time. I’ll keep an open mind if things work out like you planned and I have to go meet Miss Addams.” He smiled. “On one condition, that being you keep an open mind when you, April and Kasserine come with me to Twenty Three.”
“Done,” Ninhursag said.
“Then, if I remember my schedule correctly, I have team training in about fifteen minutes in which April will try to kill us all.” He offered the ladies his hands. “Shall we go? Just understand that as soon as I get to Earth, I’ll need a lift to Kerrik’s so we can have a quick talk.”
April nodded as she took his hand. “Ganieda, Scheherazade, Heather and Dianthus are waiting for us at the Barton Spring’s house and Kerrik is expecting you at his place. If I have to, I’ll reschedule your training for later.”
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
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female
74 male Goblins
89 female Goblins
Queendom / Outer Clan
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
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
Myrna (Age 4)
Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)
Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)
Seraphina: Megami Sama
Miram: Angel (Age 5)
Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)
James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)