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One Hundred Twenty Four
Iain stepped into the middle of the loose circle of his guards and held out his arms. “Group hug, ladies, and I need this more than you do so no arguing.” He was immediately surrounded with fur and warm flesh as they complied. “Thank you,” he whispered as he closed his eyes to soak in their comforting touches and various scents. “I have missed you all so much.”
His eyes came open when Ganieda stiffened against him and pushed away. “You did it,” she growled, her ears flat on her head. “After I told you not to.”
Suddenly her form was blotted out by the gray fur of Scheherazade’s broad back as the Dread Wolf moved between them. Iain touched her hip and watched her left ear flick to point at him. “Move out of the way. She’s not going to attack me and we need to have this out now and not in front of Kerrik.”
“I’m not so sure you’re right about her not attacking you,” Scheherazade grumbled as she moved to his right. “She’s furious and tends to lash out when she is.”
“I am the one person that Ganieda would never do that to,” Iain said. “Even if she’s making a huge mistake and we all know just how much she hates being wrong in front of other people, she will never deliberately harm me.”
The Snugglebunny Splice’s eyes narrowed to slits. “And how am I being wrong,” she hissed.
“You should be celebratory about my making such a huge improvement and then you should ask yourself, ‘hey, you know, during the years that he was gone, since he loves me so much, maybe he realized I’d be upset about what he’s done and put his mind to figuring out a way to give what he has to me too’.”
“What did you do,” Heather asked curiously.
“Wait,” Ganieda’s ears snapped up to point at him as her eyes went wide. “What did you just say?”
“You have a twee,” Dianthus noted acidly. “Which means you can easily remember and replay when he told you that he loves you.”
“I want to hear him say it again and not in passing this time.”
Iain chuckled. So easy to distract. “I was gone for a few years and, during that time, I took the opportunity to examine in detail my feelings for the women I had to leave behind. Ganieda, I love you. We’ll discuss this more in private, later.” He turned to Heather as Ganieda gaped at him. “To answer your question, most powerful psychic pokegirls think in a particular fashion. They use conscious parallel processing to outthink the rest of us. We all parallel process to some extent, it’s how the unconscious mind keeps us alive while, at the same time, the conscious mind sometimes does its best to screw that up.”
Scheherazade snickered. “So true,” she muttered.
Iain ignored her. “I couldn’t figure out how to parallel process and instead worked to harness the speed of thought to think faster while still thinking in a serial fashion, which helped me to try and keep up with the geniuses here in the clan. I figured out how to do that and implemented it. However, I never stopped trying to figure out how to consciously parallel process and, eventually, worked it out. The problem I found with it was that it was incompatible with fast thinking, at least the way I’d done it. Ganieda sensed me experimenting with conscious parallel processing and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”
“That was pretty stupid,” Dianthus said with a broad smirk at Ganieda. “Command our Iain not to do something? Were you trying to trick him into doing it just as quickly as he could? I only ask that because that’s what was going to happen after trying to do something that dumb.”
“Shut up,” Ganieda snarled, but there was no heat in it as she stared at Iain. “Can you teach me how to do this?”
“I can. I was going to as well, but then someone had to turn into a huge bitch instead of being happy to see me back and hale. And she did it because, for some reason I can’t fathom, she has decided that I, an almost total non-psychic, was somehow a threat to her position within the harem, the clan and that I didn’t need or want her anymore.”
Ganieda’s ears twitched and she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she murmured.
“You know how it works,” Heather said. “Be specific.” Ganieda shot her an angry glare and the Elfqueen shrugged. “You fucked up in public so you get to apologize in public. And you need to do it soon or I’ll relieve you and get a replacement. We are not keeping Kerrik waiting any longer.”
They could hear Ganieda’s teeth grind together for several seconds. “I am sorry I decided to become paranoid about my place in your life and to react badly to you doing something that I should be pleased about since it shows my male is still getting stronger, something we all desire, no matter how much it sometimes pisses us off. In short, I’m sorry for being a total bitch at you when you didn’t deserve it at all.”
“Come here and take my hands,” Iain said. Ganieda did. “Crouch down a little so you’re not quite so much taller than me.” She frowned but did so. “Now look up a little.” She lifted her face towards the sky. Iain went up on his toes and bit her firmly on the throat, right over the carotid artery.
Ganieda whined loudly and shivered as Iain dropped down. She looked down to meet his gaze as he smiled. “Bad doe. Don’t behave like that again.”
Her voice was deep with need. “Do you have any idea just how much adrenaline is in my system right now?”
“I do. I can smell it and we’re going to Kerrik’s so we can’t fuck right now. Live with it.”
“You are evil.”
He smiled humorlessly. “No, I only have so many tools to work with to try and correct problem behavior among the ladies of my harem. I am not going to be treated like I was before I left when I do something that makes me stronger and it upsets the people around me just because they don’t like it. I do not want to die and I am going to continue to do everything that I can to ensure I do not die and I’m not going to put up with people losing their shit over me succeeding in making me harder to kill.”
Ganieda nodded slowly. “I hear you. Can I not warn the others of what is coming so I can enjoy watching you do this to everyone else?”
“I don’t have a problem with that. Now, as horny as you are right now, do you have the discipline to do your job as my bodyguard without doing anything stupid like trying to pick a fight with one of Kerrik’s harem? Because if you do something like that, I will have a problem with that and you do not want to be the person who embarrasses me in front of him.”
“I will do my job and only my job.”
“Good.” He looked around. “That goes for the rest of you as well. You are my guards right now. You want to visit with one of Kerrik’s harem, do it on your own time.”
Heather nodded. “I understand, Iain, and we have one job right now.” She hesitated. “Can I ask a question?”
Iain reached out and grabbed her hand. “Heather, I’m still me and you can always ask questions. Trust me, I’d much rather prefer having group hugs than giving lectures but this is something that’s been an issue for a while. Everyone here knows it and the only thing that’s changed is that I’m not going to put up with it anymore. We are clan and we present a united front to other clans and outlanders. What is your question?”
“Raven and the others are sometimes very aggressive. What do we do if they try to pick a fight with us?”
“You’re absolutely right and, in that case, you ignore them. In a lot of ways, they’re still children and you don’t rise to the gibes of a child.”
Heather nodded. “Yessir. Dianthus is your transport.”
Iain released her hand and took Dianthus’. She gave him a quick smile and suddenly they were standing on the road near Kerrik’s. A second later, everyone else joined them.
“Raven knows we’re here and is on the way,” Ganieda said.
A moment later the Archmage flew up and curved in for a landing. “Good morning,” she said.
“Good morning,” Iain replied. “I was told that Kerrik’s waiting for me.” He realized that Raven was staring at his ears and shifted to human. “Is he?”
“He’s on his way,” Raven looked at his braid. “What happened to you?”
“I’m going to wait for Kerrik so I only have to tell this once.”
Raven made a face. “You just be that way.”
A moment later, Morwen appeared with Kerrik. “Iain.”
Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Even though you’re hiding it, I know you well enough to be able to tell that, even with your attempts at suppression, you’ve had a sudden jump in power. I’m just not sure how much. What happened?”
“Nightraven sent me on a mission that ended up lasting seven hundred years. I had to gather exacting information about a version of Toril as time passed so she could compare it to her records of that same time period on her world. I kept up my studies and research during the mission.”
“What was the time period?”
“The last of the wars between the Empire of Vyshaantar and its enemies.”
Kerrik shook his head slightly. “I remember the Crown wars. Things were pretty chaotic and messy.”
“That was still the same this time around too.”
Kerrik nodded. “Is this mission the reason that you’ve been gone for the last five days?” He smiled when Iain raised an eyebrow. “Ava was very mysterious about your absence.” He made a face. “I mean my sister. I still have a hard time calling her my sister, even if she calls me big brother whenever she’s not being my student.”
Iain chuckled. “That’s Ava. Trust me, she’s caused more trouble than that. For example,” he stopped. “Privacy.”
“Accepted,” Kerrik said. He looked at Raven. “Well?”
“Oh, sorry, I accept the invocation.”
Iain looked at Heather. “You and the others too.”
She blinked in surprise. “Us?”
“Yes.” Iain shook his head. “Never you mind. Kerrik, please take me somewhere private for a few minutes.”
Heather grabbed his arm “We are your guards.”
“I know,” he said gently. “Normally I wouldn’t do this, but please, trust me. I’ll be right back and I won’t try to hide my location as long as you don’t try to come to me.”
“You have five minutes from when you leave,” Dianthus said. “No longer.”
Heather gave him an unhappy glare. “Go, but the timer starts the instant you leave.”
Iain smiled. “Thank you for this. Kerrik.” Suddenly they were standing in a canyon made of sandstone that had been carved from its surroundings by wind and water. The layers glowed various shades of red and yellow in the late evening sun. “You know that Ava worships Eilistraee. Mielikki asked that I not worship the analog of Mielikki where I was going but wanted me to continue to worship a good goddess in order to keep from going down some of the roads you walk. I agreed and she asked Ava to ordain me as a priestess of Eilistraee. She did. Eilistraee is interested in Ava and this place and intends to travel here. Also, I created a cadet branch of Grey there and we have several drow in the clan, all of which are not evil. One of my wives is the high priestess of Eilistraee in the valley where we live. All of this is private until after Eilistraee comes to visit because she wants to see Ava and Dancer without them being able to prepare for her arrival.”
“Your life is as fucked up as mine is,” Kerrik said with a grin. “What else?”
“Eilistraee invited Mielikki to Twenty Three, the world where I was on this mission. She accepted and has spent several centuries gathering worshippers and power. They’re very close and she and Eilistraee are referred to as The Sisters and worshipped together as well as separately.”
“So she’ll be a lot more powerful when she returns,” Kerrik noted. “Yeah, I needed to know all of this. Will your new wives be coming here?”
“They want to meet my family here, so probably. Zilvra is the drow priestess I mentioned, Helesatra is the queen of the Queendom of Vyshaan and a half fiend sun elf and Arithallos is a silver dragoness from the Brightwing clan.”
“I’ve heard of the Brightwing clan. They’re pretty important in the silver dragon hierarchy and have been for thousands of years.” Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Wait just a moment. Do you mean the legend of the fiendish granddaughter of Morefin was true?”
“It was true where I went, so it was probably also true on your Toril.”
“Fuck. I thought that was just some stupid fairy tale to keep people frightened of the Vyshaantar and that the Elven Court was spreading the story purely as propaganda.” He shook his head. “Just goes to show you never can tell.”
Iain laughed. “You are a shining example of that, Kerrik.”
“True. So are you. Is there anything else critical that I need to know?”
“I don’t think so, at least not until you decide to visit Twenty Three.”
“Very well and we still have a minute left. What do you want to do during it?”
Iain smiled. “I think we need to be getting back instead of bell tapping.”
Kerrik grinned. “Fine.” They were suddenly standing where they had been. “And we’re back with time to spare.”
Theodora says you two just talked, Heather said to him. Iain gave her a curious look and a ghost of a smile crossed her face. Nobody invoked to her, so there. But Theodora can be fooled by magic. You are untouched?
All we did was talk.
“I want you to report here in three days at 0500,” Kerrik said suddenly.
“I’m not your student anymore,” Iain pointed out.
“Not in magic, no, you are not my student, at least not for the moment. However, by your own admission you were gone seven hundred years and I am going to test you to see where your skills in my marital arts style lie since you were supposed to keep studying it. Wear your gi.” He smiled unpleasantly. “And bring a couple of spare uniforms for when the first one gets trashed.”
“You don’t sound worried,” Raven said cheerfully.
“I’m not. I did keep up with my studies, although I had no master to test my progress. Unless Kerrik is feeling like being an ass, and he usually doesn’t do that sort of thing, all we’ll do is some sparring, some testing and then he’ll tell me what I need to fix and if I’ve progressed far enough to satisfy whatever requirements he has hidden inside his head.”
“Maybe we can play catch Iain,” the Archmage said with a grin.
“That’ll be up to Kerrik,” Iain said sanguinely.
Her eyes narrowed. “You don’t seem very worried about that, either.”
Iain shrugged. “You can’t kill me. Anything else is me learning how you fight so that one day I can win.”
Raven hissed. “You sound like Misery.”
“No, I don’t,” Iain said politely. “Misery would have insulted you and stated without reservation that she was a better fighter than you are. I did neither of those things. I respect the fact that you’re dangerous and lethal but I don’t fear you.”
Her eyebrows rose. “You think you can defeat me?”
“I never said that. I would never say that. I have no intention of challenging you, Raven. You are one of Scott’s premier creations and your legend is that of an engine of destruction that is almost unrivaled.”
She smirked at him. “And you’d better never forget that.”
“I won’t.” Iain turned to Kerrik. “I don’t have anything else right now.”
Kerrik nodded. “Thank you for coming to me before I had to come find you and see what had happened. And thanks for the other updates.”
“You’re welcome. I happen to like my life quiet and as orderly as I can get it.”
Kerrik snorted. “Good luck with that after Magdalene or Tanika discover how much you’ve changed.”
“I should have kept that invocation of privacy.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” Kerrik said with an amused cant to his ears. “Tanika plans to be dropping by regularly for a while to see Faelan and Svetlana. I’m sure she scans you when she’s in the area. When she does, she’ll pick up on the fact that something about you has changed. In fact, I think she’s on this world right now. Our son did almost die, remember?”
“I haven’t forgotten anything about that attack,” Iain said flatly.
“You still hunting for Mitsotakis?”
“No. Don’t get me wrong, if I ever run across him, his life will end just as soon as I realize who he is. But he’s not worth wasting resources on. The leagues have been crushed and I will spend some time and money making sure they don’t ever recover, but I suspect that Lucifer and others will do most of that work for me.” He smiled coldly. “And, in the end he is a human and will be dead in less than fifty years no matter what.”
“I thought you were going to hunt him down and make him pay for what he did to your family,” Raven said.
“Raven, the man who thirsted for his blood had just lost many loved ones. He lived seven hundred years ago. I’m still him in a lot of ways but I mourned my lost a long time ago and I have accepted that sometimes I can’t have what I want.” He smiled. “In another seven hundred years I might even grow to accept those situations gracefully, but I suspect that it may actually take somewhat longer than that.” He took Dianthus’ hand. “Take me back to the Sabine Ranch, please.”
Iain kept his grip on Dianthus’ hand when they arrived at the ranch. “I would like to thank all of you for very professional behavior at Kerrik’s. I’m proud of what you did in not responding to anything, especially when Raven started taunting me.”
Heather gave him a slightly guilty smile. “We might have been screaming at her across our twee without transmitting outside your guards.”
“As long as it doesn’t hurt your ability to guard me, that’s fine.”
“She is not nearly as dangerous as she thinks she is,” Scheherazade growled.
“That’s not true,” Iain replied. “She is extremely dangerous, but it’s also true that she’s never faced anyone like you, Ganieda or Dianthus. I’d expect Heather to make a good showing against her too.”
“She’d take me down,” Heather noted, “but she’d be a pincushion before she did.” She eyed him curiously. “How would you do against Raven?”
“I don’t fight pokegirls,” Iain said “That’s part of my agreement with my harem. And another good reason not to fight pokegirls is that I don’t like fights that end, even if I win, with me having to have things regrown or reattached. That’s never fun.”
“I’m still horny,” Ganieda said. “What do you intend to do about that, mister?”
“He’s not going to do anything right now,” Candace said as she walked up. “He has an appointment with me and the training team for an evaluation.”
“If I remember correctly,” Heather said firmly to Ganieda, “you brought this on yourself. Deal with it by yourself. Candace, he’s all yours.”
Iain released Dianthus’ hand as Candace smiled at him. “Come along, Iain.”
April watched Iain’s face smooth as he focused on her. Something in his eyes set off an alarm bell in her head and she abruptly changed her mind. “Hold!”
Iain lowered his swords from their ready positions as she stepped backwards. “Is something wrong?”
“Change of plans,” she said. “Pandora, you’re facing him.”
The Archangel gave April an amused look as she picked up her shield and stepped up to face Iain. “Get a shield,” she ordered.
Iain shifted the swords he held in each hand to draw attention to them. “This is how I fight.”
“Get a shield,” she repeated. “You’re training with me and you use a shield.”
Iain gave a mental shrug. “Very well.” He headed for the weapon table and swapped out one of his swords for a kite shield. Then he returned to his original position. “Ready.”
Pandora scowled at him. “You are left handed, Iain.”
“You’re currently set up to fight as if you are right handed.”
“Shields for left handed people are very rare and I am unlikely to come across one on a battlefield after my sword breaks, so I train right handed when I use a shield.”
Pandora gave him a long suffering look. “We’re not on a battlefield,” she said with exaggerated patience. Everyone still heard the “you idiot” she didn’t say out loud at the end of her sentence.
Iain smiled. “If you want me to fight with a shield, I’ll fight with a shield, but the only time I will ever really fight with a shield is if I somehow lost a sword and couldn’t replace it quickly.” His smile faded. “Now start the fight or yield.”
Pandora snorted. “Yield to you? Never.”
Is what I am about to do worth it, Iain’s twee whispered in his mind. Yes, it is. She’s going to chop us up for it later but yes, it is. Now the question is, can I pull it off? She’s not wearing gauntlets and she doesn’t expect me to try something so stupid, so maybe.
Iain stepped forward as he feinted with his sword. Pandora’s shield shifted to defend against the attack and Iain, who had never put the shield on properly, hurled his shield at her. She blocked instinctively with her sword and Iain slipped inside her guard to catch her sword hand with his free hand. He snapped her thumb and pulled her sword from her now useless grip, turned it and drove the battle steel weapon’s tip through her breastplate and into her heart. Her reflexive shield bash knocked him sprawling and broke his right arm above the wrist as she crumpled.
Iain rolled to his feet and stopped to watch April use Pandora’s pokeball to recover the Archangel. The Duelist stared at him. ‘How did you do that?”
“It’s a sucker’s move that only works if your opponent never thinks you’d be dumb enough to try it,” Iain said. “And that version of it mixes in some of the martial arts I’ve been learning while I was gone. Anyone trying that in a real fight will end up with a sword in her belly.” He sighed. “And, in retaliation, she’s going to beat me to a pulp, but maybe she’ll stop insulting me before she does it by insisting that I cripple myself just because she thinks the only suitable fighting style in the universe is sword and shield.” He dropped Pandora’s sword on the ground. “Heal her and let her out so we can get this over with. And while she’s healing you can fix my arm.”
April looked at his arm and frowned. “You don’t sound like you’re in pain. Doesn’t it hurt?”
“It hurts a fuck ton,” Iain said. “I’m mitigating the effects and speeding remodeling so I can stay functional in case it doesn’t get healed and I have to keep fighting.”
The pokeball went into the healer and April hurried over to heal his arm. “There.”
“Thank you very much,” Iain said.
She winked. “You can pay me back later.” Then she returned to the healer.
A moment later, red light coalesced into Pandora. She immediately felt her chest, sticking her finger inside the hole in her armor. “I seriously suggest you finally stop playing around and upgrade your armor to the same battle steel your sword is made of,” Iain said. “I couldn’t have done that to you then.”
She looked at him and then pulled her helmet off as she turned to present her left side to him. “The edges of the cut are driving into my breast. Please undo the straps so I can take this off.”
“Sure.” Iain began undoing the straps.
“I underestimated you,” she said quietly as he worked. “I’m sorry for doing so.”
Iain chuckled. “We both know it won’t work on you a second time. I took some crazy chances and they paid off for once. Now I’ll pay for what I managed to do for the next few years.”
“You knew how I would react,” she disagreed. “It wasn’t much luck at all. Know your opponent and the battle is yours. I’m pleased to see that you’ve learned that lesson.”
“No, understanding how you might react just means I have a better chance against you,” Iain finished unbuckling her armor and pried the shell of her breastplate apart. “You’re still going to kick my ass after this. You can take it off now.” He smiled as she pulled the breastplate off and dropped it on the ground. The arming doublet she wore under her plate had a large bloody spot on it where he’d stabbed her. “You’ll wear your gauntlets next time, too.”
She smiled. “I’ll wear them every time I fight you from now on, Iain.” She looked at April, “I won’t fight Iain again until I get new armor. Theodora will have it ready for me this afternoon.”
“What just happened,” April asked. “You’re one of our heavy hitters.”
“Iain didn’t beat me in battle,” Pandora said. “He beat me up here,” she tapped her forehead with a finger. “I’m still stronger and faster than he is, and in a regular fight I’ll take him every time. Instead of facing me like I wanted him to, he took advantage of my surprise when he pulled that idiotic stunt. He knew I’d hesitate before seriously harming him and he used that against me,” she gave him a quick glance and a tiny smile, “just like I should have expected a fey to but didn’t.”
Iain smiled back at her. “Theodora?”
She appeared. “Iain?”
“I am overriding April’s rules temporarily. What just happened is not to be scored as a win for me or a loss for Pandora.”
“How should I score it?”
“Score it as a half point partial win for Pandora and a loss for me. Also, I want you to give me twenty demerit points.”
“That will put you on a level one punishment detail,” Theodora pointed out.
“I understand and accept that.”
Pandora put her hand on his arm. “You don’t have to do this, Iain. We can just let the whole thing go without scoring at all.”
“I’m making sure nobody else tries anything this stupid with you. Your punch can shatter a skull and I don’t want to have to raise someone from the dead because they decided to try and copy what I did with you or with someone like Vanessa or Lucifer.”
“He’s right and I concur with Iain’s scoring of the bout,” April said. “Level one punishment isn’t that onerous and I’ll make sure his punishment goes quickly. If nothing else, the boats in the marina always need their hulls scraped.”
“You said it would go quickly,” Iain noted. “That’s an all day job for each ship.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “You’ll have help, Iain. You are not the only one who has managed to award themselves a level one.”
“Whatever. I earned it fairly. I’ll do it without complaint.” He smiled hopefully. “So, since Pandora is waiting on her new and improved armor and I don’t have an opponent, do I get some free time?”
April grinned. “You do! You now have the free time to run the obstacle course for score while I observe.”
“That was not what I was looking for, but all right.” He took her hand and waved at Pandora. “Be seeing you.” They vanished.
Iain gently settled down on the edge of the bed. Elizabeth shifted but didn’t wake. He leaned over and licked her cheek. Her eyes snapped open and she grabbed him around the neck, rolling to put herself on top of him and straddling his waist. An unhappy look crossed her face. “You’re wearing clothes,” she complained.
“I do have to gather eggs and help with breakfast after I feed you, which means I don’t have time for what you would really like.” He grinned up at her. “But you slept in and I decided to wake you up for your meal before I went to the kitchen.” He put his hands on her hips and rolled. She squealed as she ended up underneath him. He gave her a hard kiss. “Good morning.”
She smiled lazily at him as she draped her arms around his neck and her legs over his hips. “Good morning, Iain.” Her smile faded. “Honestly, I thought the honeymoon phase of our relationship was over since I have been drinking stored blood for the last several days.”
“Elizabeth, I was gone the whole time so I couldn’t feed you the way we’ve been doing it. I’m home now and I thought we’d go back to what we were doing before I left. Now let me up and get dressed so we can go outside.” He winked and kissed her on the nose. “I am not going to the kitchen with a wet spot on my shorts from you.”
“You could take them off,” she said suggestively as she released him.
“Chores,” he reminded her as he slid to the side.
She sat up. “You and your responsibilities,” she teased as she got out of bed. She started to say something and stopped, shaking her head slightly. “I’ll be right back.” She darted into the bathroom.
A few minutes later she returned and began selecting her clothes for the morning. “What were you going to say,” Iain asked.
She glanced at him thoughtfully. Her tone was carefully neutral when she finally spoke. “I was going to say that it would have been much easier to convince Shikarou to take off his clothes and fuck me if he’d done something like this. Then I remembered that he didn’t do things like this. He didn’t come into my room at all. I went to his bed or we had sex wherever we happened to be when the mood struck him. I hope you don’t mind me thinking of him now.”
“Shikarou was your male and part of your life for most of it,” Iain said. “You’re going to think of him. It’s a thing and, hopefully, has no bearing on any feelings you might have for me. I accepted that when I invited you into my life. I think of the women I lost that I loved. It’s just a thing and has no bearing on my feelings for you. As for this, I thought this would be a nicer wakeup than having Theodora do it. Do you mind?”
She gave him a shy smile. “Even if my clothes are going on and yours aren’t coming off, which I would like to point out is completely backwards from what should be happening, I like this a lot. You do realize that if this is how you’ll wake me when you think I’m sleeping in, I may never set an alarm again.” She pulled on a blue dress that came down to her thighs and slipped on some sandals. “I’m dressed.”
Iain took her hand and they headed downstairs and outside. “How did that blood work out?”
“Storing it in a Dikon to keep it fresh was a great idea,” she said. “There were no preservatives in it and the temperature and taste were like it had just come from you. It’s not the same though. I like feeling your pulse beneath my lips and the smell and taste of you with your blood and the cup I used never tasted like that.” She glanced at him as they stopped at “their” picnic table. “But it worked well and I can get used to it if you have better things to do.”
Iain sat down and pulled her into his lap. “I do not have anything better to do right now than feed you, Elizabeth. Believe it or not, taking you into my family was not a trial or a tribulation. I like you and I liked you when I wrote about you. You need blood and, yes, we could give you that blood in the Dikon or we could set up something else. But you want blood from me and I want to give it to you. I’d like this to be something that we share and I hope that you’d like that too. It gives me the opportunity to see you and talk to you a little very day and I don’t intend to stop this unless you don’t want it.” He took her hand and ran her fingers down his throat, over the carotid artery. “Now I can’t stay here for much longer and you haven’t had breakfast yet, so get started.”
“I was drinking from your wrist.”
“You were but I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of you feeding like you want to and I want to try it and see if we can make it work.”
Her eyes widened suddenly. “You missed me, didn’t you? You hardly know me and you missed me while you were gone.”
“I did miss you. And before you ask why and say something silly like you’re not anyone important, that’s not true. You are important to me. You’re a member of my family and one of my women. I missed you the entire time I was gone and I’m glad to be with you again. You are very special to me.”
Her face lit up. “I haven’t been special to anyone for a very long time, Iain. This is very nice.”
“You’re special to me. Now you need to have breakfast.”
She nodded. “One last question: If I get up every day at this time to have my breakfast, and I volunteer to help with cooking for everyone else like you do, since I am already awake and I don’t want to go back to sleep, would it add more chores or would April take what I’m doing into consideration when she assigns chores to everyone?”
“Ninhursag and April should take that into consideration since there aren’t a boatload of people volunteering to get up this early. If you don’t think they are, let me know and I’ll ask them about it.”
“How about I talk to April before I start volunteering and see if she likes the idea?”
“I think that would be as smart as I’ve come to expect you to be, Elizabeth.”
“I want to be at least that smart,” she said with a grin. She kissed him hungrily, Iain matching it. “Now for breakfast,” she said huskily and sank her fangs into his throat. Iain stroked her back as she fed. Finally she pulled her mouth free and licked his neck clean as the bite healed. “You’ve changed something,” she whispered. “Your blood tastes even better than it did before.”
“All I’ve done is gotten older,” Iain said. “Want to be my partner tonight? We can try out what you wanted to do this morning, and we can even do it in your room if you’d like.”
“That would be great, Iain.” She got up and tugged on his hand. “Show me what the breakfast chores are like.” She looked down and smiled. “Oops. Looks like you got that wet spot on your shorts after all.”
Iain got up. “You horrible woman. Let’s go. The first thing to remember is never, ever get between Kasumi and gathering the chicken eggs.”
“She’s not upstairs with Mariko?”
“No, Mariko is asleep in bed and Kasumi is waiting for me at the coop.” He tugged his hand free. “Rosemary is expecting you in the kitchen and she’ll get you orientated. I’ll see you in a little bit.”
She gave him a quick kiss and darted inside. Iain looked down at his shorts and used his magic to clean and dry them. “I’m glad she likes me enough to want to mark her territory,” he said quietly. He chuckled. “Apparently just like everyone else right now.” I’ll be right there, he sent to Kasumi. Elizabeth’s breakfast took a little longer than expected, but it’s for the best.
Lucifer smiled at him. “Prepare yourself.” She was suddenly wearing white full plate armor decorated with an enameled red rose on the breastplate and carrying a matching mace in each hand.
Iain’s eyebrows rose. “I’ve been good. I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve full armor and maces yet.”
Lucifer smiled at him. “Your tricking of Pandora yesterday was quite cunning and I fear that you have something similar to use on me. Until I determine that is not the situation, I intend to treat you with the caution that you have earned.”
“You don’t even use maces when you fight Pandora. You reserve them for battling Vanessa. I am not Vanessa level dangerous.”
Lucifer’s eyes twinkled as she reached up and flipped her visor down. “That remains to be seen, Iain. I suggest you prepare yourself or face me unarmed. Do your best, for I shall.”
“Shit. I will not go quietly into that good night.” Iain was suddenly wearing his armor and swords. He drew his weapons and stepped back a few paces, going into a ready position.
Lucifer’s voice sounded amused as it issued from her helm. “I told you to do your best, Iain. I expected to see your living sword.”
“I never spar with my living weapons. I don’t pull my blows when I use them and I don’t want to learn to do so.”
“Plural? You have more than one now?”
“There is an omega tree in the valley where I lived. About three hundred years into my mission, it saw me fight and realized I only had one living sword so it offered me a second one to match my fighting style. Greedy person that I am, I accepted its gift.”
“Somebody sent for a healer?” Irena came around a tree and smiled at them. “I’m surprised we’re out in this remote training facility, but here I am.”
“I did,” Lucifer said. “Iain is going to need one for our training session and I requested you because April or Candace might interfere when he gets seriously hurt but isn’t really in danger just yet.”
“Really?” Irena beamed at Iain. “This should be fun for some of us.”
“Oh fuck,” Iain muttered.
“I want you to be ready to aid Iain, but not to until I call for you. I want to test his limits.”
Irena looked Iain over speculatively. “Do you intend to test him to destruction?”
Her hologram appeared. “Irena, how may I help you?”
“Lucifer is going to test Iain to destruction. Can you deliver a medic to here without alerting Candace or anyone else who might interfere?”
Theodora glanced at Iain. Allow?
I’m curious to know this too.
Be careful, my love. “It will be here in a few minutes.”
Irena nodded. “Don’t kill him in the next few minutes, Lucifer, but I don’t see any reason to wait for it. Give him hell.”
“I will.” Lucifer shifted her stance slightly and attacked.
The pillow under Iain’s head was warm and soft and smelled nice. He’d have liked nothing more than to drift back to sleep, but something kept brushing his forehead. With his perception, he could see that his head was in Lucifer’s lap and she was stroking his face gently as she watched him. He opened his eyes and watched her for several seconds before she noticed he was awake. She smiled warmly. “Hi.”
‘Hi yourself. This is nice.”
Her smile widened. “Yes, it is.” She bent down and kissed his forehead. “I am with the man that I love and it is a beautiful day.”
“She’s right.” Iain’s eyes flicked down to see Irena’s head laying on his thigh. She winked. “Think we can talk Lucifer into a threesome?”
“I am not fond of sex in public,” Lucifer said as she continued stroking his face.
Undaunted, Irena grinned at the Megami Sama. “We’re in the Australian outback. There isn’t anyone but us and some ferals for dozens of kilometers.” Her eyes shifted back to Iain’s. “And it’s a good thing you brought Iain here to train with.”
“Indeed, it is.”
Iain looked from one woman to the next. “What? I remember Lucifer attacking me, we sparred for a bit and then she broke several of my bones and ruined my armor. Eventually she knocked me out.” He looked up at Lucifer. “I’ve taken solid hits from storm giants that didn’t hurt as much as yours did. Nicely done.”
“Iain, I intended to overwhelm you immediately. A week ago, I would have done exactly that. Today you fought me for nearly five minutes before I overcame your defenses and you continued fighting even as you received crippling injuries, something you have never done before. Several of your injuries were partially healed by the time we put you in the medic. You have become much more powerful as a fighter and much more comfortable with some of your powers.”
“Did I fuck up again?”
“You did not, but I believe I will continue to use my maces against you when we spar. Is April and her staff aware of your improvement?”
“In a general sense, yes. She hasn’t tested for specifics just yet since I’ve been floating around spending time with everyone right now.” He frowned and looked down at himself. “You said I went into a medic, but I’m dressed,” he paused, “and not in what I was wearing this morning.”
“Irena retrieved clothing for you from your quarters and we dressed you after your healing was complete.”
Irena grinned up at him. “You’re not wearing underwear anymore, either.”
“I am sorry that we had to destroy your armor,” Lucifer gave him a sad smile. “Theodora insisted we load you and it into the medic because I’d damaged it too much to easily remove. According to Theodora, your weapons and equipment vanished when the medic closed.”
“I’ve had to replace my armor before and it’s not a big deal. Some of the other items are much harder to replace because of their rarity and so contingency magic protects them from theft or destruction. As for the armor, I should probably follow my advice to Pandora.”
Lucifer raised an eyebrow curiously. “Oh?”
“Her sword is made of battle steel, but her armor was not. And Dominique should be able to make it summonable like it is for Valkyrie.”
“Battle steel can be formed into armor?” Iain nodded and Lucifer looked thoughtful. “And Pandora is having armor made from this?”
“She already has it.”
“Is this material available to the Cosmic Awareness that we Megami Sama use for summoning our equipment?”
“It should be. We can go searching for it if you’d like.”
“I believe I would like that very much. If my forces can use that for their armor without it unduly hindering them, it could prove very advantageous.” She looked down at him. “Can you enchant items now?”
“That’s Dominique’s role and, eventually, Ganieda’s.”
“You did not answer the question.”
“I have created some magical gear.”
She smiled at him again. “Thank you. Are you going to upgrade to battle steel armor as Pandora did?”
“I don’t do plate. I find it too restrictive. However, magical armor like Eve’s was could work well, if I can find a pattern to study for replication. If not, I can probably recreate it, but it’ll take longer.”
“Eve is no longer with us, but she taught me how to create that armor. It is protective, but I am a traditionalist and prefer to feel the weight of my protection when I wear it. I can let you study mine, later.”
“I’d really appreciate that.”
“Then that is what we will do.” She glanced at Irena, who was rubbing her cheek against Iain’s groin. “Can you take us to my quarters on the Theodora? That is safe enough that I feel we can work on Irena’s libido together before she starts trying to open your zipper here.”
“I will happily take you ladies there,” Iain said cheerfully. “There’s just one problem.”
“What is that?”
“I don’t want to get up. My pillow is awesome and I am quite comfortable.”
Lucifer chuckled. “What if I could promise you that this pillow you are enjoying so much would be available for your use any time you wished, if you gave me what I am asking for right now?”
Iain gently lifted Irena’s head from his crotch and rolled up and onto his knees as he turned to face Lucifer. He reached out and ran tender fingers down the side of her face, smiling as her eyes closed and she leaned into his touch. “I’ll never stop loving her either,” he said softly. Lucifer’s eyes snapped open to stare at him in surprise and he nodded. “It’s been centuries for me since she died, but Eve’s memory is still strong for me and she’ll always be in her place in my heart.” Lucifer’s eyes misted as he smiled crookedly. “Thank you for sharing her with me.”
She took a deep, shuddering breath. “Does it ever stop hurting?”
“No,” Irena said from where she lay. She sat up. “You get used to it, but the some of the pain will always be there. It was that way for me after I lost Iain when I died until he found me again.” She sighed and looked down at the grass where they had been sitting. “And I’m sorry that I’m the reason he couldn’t rescue Eve for you.” She looked up into Lucifer’s eyes. “I’d change places with her for you if I could.”
Lucifer pushed Iain’s hand away and reached out to Irena, who almost frantically grabbed the Megami Sama’s hand. “Do not ever say that, Irena. Never again. I wouldn’t have let you do such a thing and Eve would certainly have never let you sacrifice yourself for her. It is our duty to be the sacrifices, if there must be any at all, but we strive to keep any of the good people from being sacrificed for any reason and to any being. You are as deserving of life and happiness as Eve was. And what the Powers in the Lands of the Dead did is not your fault. It isn’t Iain’s fault either. Iain rescued you and Scheherazade out of love, and what they did in return only serves to show just how petty and how cruel they can be. I am only glad that neither Eve nor you are still within their reach.”
She smiled sadly at something that only she could see. “I tell myself that Eve and the others died so that the leagues here would be destroyed because of the fact that on our world, three hundred years later, the evil that the leagues created during this time period on our world still echoed everywhere. I brought the Sisterhood here to try and stop that from happening on this world, our new home. I knew when I made that decision that not all of us would survive to see the leagues fall and to see the world change into something brighter for both human and pokegirl. Even if I had known that Eve would be one of the ones to die during this war, she would have insisted that I make the same decision that I did and I would have listened to her and done so.” She blinked away her tears. “If you want to honor Eve’s memory as well as the memories of our other fallen sisters and our children as well as all of the other people that the leagues murdered on their path to power, well, the battle for this world is not yet over. Help me to finish it so that our daughters will not have to fight it during their lifetimes and so we can turn our might against the true danger and help protect the humans against the ferals, who will kill and consume everyone that they encounter with no concern for whether they are evil or virtuous.”
“I will help,” Irena said solemnly. “I swear it.”
“I will give you a day to consider the oath you just made,” Lucifer replied. “If, at the end of it, your convictions are still sincere, then I will introduce you to Prometheus and you can start helping me.” She looked at Iain. “Eve was my designated successor within Prometheus and I wish it to remain within the inner harem’s control, for I cannot guarantee that I will survive what is coming any more than Eve did. If Irena is serious and she can do the job, she should be able to make the hard decisions about who we can help and who to help first.”
Irena made a noise that sounded a lot like a choked off laugh. “Thanks to my mother and what I was, I have spent my life being trained on how to do triage. I’m not a Night Nurse anymore, but that is still something that is second nature to me.” She looked at Iain. “Speaking of which, this world needs Night Nurses and Nurse Joys and you know where you can get them, which is back on Four. I know some of each breed came over with the Sisterhood and there are some in Haven, but it isn’t enough.” She gave Iain a broad smile. “And Candace’s kids won’t count, no matter how many of them she has with you.”
“I really don’t want to go back to Four,” Iain said. “Too many people there are looking for us.” He shook his head. “If I go back, I’ll have to create another identity. With Theodora or Daya to help it shouldn’t be that hard. But, if we go back, it will be with an already prepared shopping list and we will get in and out as quickly and as quietly as we can and we’ll visit leagues we’ve never operated in before. But that’s for the future.” He smiled. “I’m sorry I ruined the mood, but I felt how sad you suddenly were when asking me to take you and Irena to your quarters reminded you of the times you, me and Eve were there.”
“I still kind of want to punch you in the nuts for being an idiot,” Irena muttered. “I’m still horny.”
Lucifer laughed. “She is definitely not my Eve, is she?”
Iain shook his head. “No one can ever replace her.”
“That is true,” Lucifer agreed. “Eve was my constant companion for almost all of my life. There is nowhere I cannot go where I have been before that something will not remind me of her, just as the same is true for you, Iain. Either I accept that being with you will remind me of her or I go feral. I will not go feral. You won’t let me and I won’t let myself.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Even if I might want to in the vain hope that for a moment, I might forget the pain.”
Iain stood, took her hand and gently pulled her to her feet. She didn’t let go of Irena and the Sanctuary Goth stood too. “Let me take the two of you to my quarters on the Theodora instead of yours. We’ll cuddle and see what happens.”
Lucifer smiled slightly. “Cuddling with you in private never stays chaste.”
Irena grinned. “And that’s going to be a good thing for all of us. Let’s go.”
Iain looked at Lucifer. “Ready?” She nodded and he wrapped the two women in his power. “Step.” They emerged standing in a forest of yellow trees with bright pink flowers bigger than Irena’s head. The air stank with the smell of rotting corpses. “Step.”
The entranceway to Iain’s quarters was large and filled with couches and chairs scattered almost randomly about. Closed doors led deeper into his territory. “Here we are.”
Irena frowned as she let go of his hand. “I don’t remember that door.”
“That’s because it’s new.” Iain gently kissed Lucifer. “I love you,” he said quietly.
She smiled. “I love you too.”
“So what’s the new door hiding?”
Lucifer’s lips quirked up in amusement. “Unless we tie her up and gag her, she is not going to stop.”
“I can get some chains.”
Lucifer chuckled. “And a gag?”
“She’d probably enjoy it too much.” She rested her head on his shoulder for a moment. “Life and the mission go on.” She lifted her head. “I can come to you later for a good cry?”
“Then let us tend to my young sister. What is in the room?”
“I had Theodora install a hot tub.”
Irena turned to look at them. “Why?”
“While I was gone, I had access to a pool fed from a hot spring and I like it. A hot tub is a good substitute. I’ll probably have one put in my office too. Open.” The door slid open.
Irena dashed into the room. “It’s huge! This seats what, ten?” She poked her head out the door as she pulled off her shirt. “Get in here!”
Iain began unbuttoning Lucifer’s blouse. “I guess we’ll be cuddling in the tub.”
Ninhursag opened the door to Iain’s office. “Do you have a moment?”
Iain closed the binder he was looking through and slid it to the side of his desk. “Yes. Come in.” He got up, moved around to the couch against one wall and sat down. “Join me?”
She settled down next to him and snuggled against him with a smile when he wrapped an arm around her. “What are you reading?”
“It’s the latest Ranger report for Garrett. Amanda dropped it off earlier for me to read and sign off on.”
“I can come back later,” Ninhursag said.
“It’s a report. You are far more important to me than anything in there will ever be,” Iain wriggled his eyebrows at her suggestively. “So tell me what you want and maybe I can give it to you.”
“I received the latest report from Daya this morning. She says the situation is such that they are ready for you to visit.”
“I see. Are you finally going to tell me about what you’ve done now?”
She looked surprised. “You don’t know?”
“I know that Daya, Marguerite, Dominique and Zareen are in Twenty Four to meet with the Addams’. Theodora told me that much when I asked. I didn’t ask for more from her so you could tell me what was going on, that being your job and all.”
“It would have been easier for me if you’d asked Theodora to explain this.”
Iain chuckled. “Yes, it would have, but she isn’t next in line to replace me. I want to know what you decided to do and why. I’m not going to get upset with you.”
“Theodora warned me that you might fire me.”
“Considering my past, that’s always been a possibility,” Iain replied. “And you shouldn’t be afraid of it. I gave Eve several warnings before she was relieved for cause and I did the same thing with Scheherazade. Have I warned you yet?”
“No, you haven’t.”
“I didn’t want to relieve Eve or Scheherazade. I don’t want to relieve you. Unless you do something completely crazy without any warning, you’ll get warned first, if I think you’re doing something that’s actionable.”
“That makes me feel better,” Ninhursag said. “We need to get stronger, and you have been against adding pokegirls to the harem.”
Iain gave her an amused look. “Be honest here, I’m not the only person who has been against that.”
“That’s true,” Ninhursag admitted, “and it doesn’t matter what either of us wants in this. The power of the clan is directly tied to our survival and both the clan and the family still need to get stronger. The next attack on us needs to be stopped cold, preferably before it ever really gets started. Then we kill them for even considering attacking us.” She twisted in her seat to face him. “And the growth should not just be in the outer and satellite clan. Inner clan needs to grow. We need more women and more children and we need powerful ones. Yes, eventually the growth will be from our children and their mates and children, but we have to survive to have children and they have to live to grow up first. I sent Marguerite to Twenty Four to meet with the family and evaluate them and Wednesday to see if she or someone else there is what we need. Her reports indicate that they are powerful enough for what we need. Now you get to go there and court Wednesday.”
Iain looked deeply into her eyes. “You’re sure about this?”
“I am. I want to meet the three women you’ve married and, hopefully, between them and Wednesday, we won’t have to trade you off much more, but we must survive and we must have children for that survival to mean anything.”
“All right, I’ll go and meet Wednesday and the rest of the family. Just be warned, their ways are not ours.”
Ninhursag gave him an amused smile. “Iain, are our ways yours anymore? I’m trying to accept and understand that you are now over twice as old as I am, but you have been careful to not show us what, if anything, is different about you.” Her smile faded. “I do know that you’re a lot more experienced in fighting. How much more I’m not sure. April says you’re hiding things from us.”
“Were you aware that we really don’t have a good way to assess just how powerful some of our people are,” Iain asked. “April does our combat training. Dominique leads our magical training. But nobody does both, and many of our powerful combatants are either also powerful magically or powerful psionically, and nobody can really evaluate the worth of the complete package they represent.” He smiled. “You, for example, are trained as a formal mage and as a fighter, and you’re a magical and plant controlling pokegirl on top of that. Still, you don’t normally demonstrate all of your abilities in any of the training formats that we use.”
Ninhursag nuzzled the top of his head. “I am aware of the limitations of what we’ve been doing. So is Lucifer and we’re trying to put together a program that addresses that particular issue. What does that have to do with April’s complaint?”
“Right now there is no way her training program can reveal everything I could do, even if I were willing to demonstrate all of my skills. That means she’s always going to feel I’m holding something back, if only because she can’t test for it. And to make matters worse, the problem I had with Pandora when she insisted that I fight the way she wanted me to instead of as I wanted to is something that’s permeated all of the levels of training that we do. That limits us as well since we’re constrained to a formula that we may or may not find comfortable in using. Finally, the various instructors don’t talk to each other because it’s not part of their job to keep up with what else their students are doing. Only the Challenge Day battles are truly demonstrative of what anyone can really do and those are deliberately limited to keep the loss of life and excessive maiming from being an issue.”
“Do you have a solution for this?”
Iain shook his head. “Zilvra, Xune, Rardur and I have had this particular talk a few times and we couldn’t come up with anything that really worked. I hope that Theodora and Daya can manage to untie this particular Gordian knot.”
“You said that Xune is your adopted daughter. How did you come to adopt her?”
“Her mother, a drow, had a relationship with a gold dragon and she became pregnant with a mixed blood child. Unfortunately, she delivered that child way too early and it wasn’t capable of surviving outside the womb. According to drow custom, she left the weak child to die. Drow don’t waste resources on sickly children. For her own reasons, Eilistraee asked me to rescue the newborn and raise her as my own. I put her into stasis and had an artificial womb constructed and she got to finish gestation in it. Her mother thinks the infant died. Her sire never knew that she had become pregnant with his child. Xune doesn’t know who they are and seems to be happy with me as her father and she likes to claim that Eilistraee is her mother. She’s had four children by three different males and lots of lovers of both genders. Currently she’s the governess of Nambale, which is the clan’s first territory in Chult.” He smiled. “She’s one of the people I want you to meet.”
“Zilvra’s not her mother?”
“While she was already living there, Zilvra and I weren’t a couple when Xune came into the picture. That happened,” he frowned, “at least a couple of decades after Xune was decanted and her drow form doesn’t look anything like Zilvra’s.”
Ninhursag shifted around to lean against him again. “I am scared about meeting them.”
“I love you. Nothing and nobody is ever going to replace you in my life, even if I did fire you as maharani for some reason.” He glanced at her. “Does it help to know that Zilvra is worried about meeting you?”
“She is. For as long as she has known me, I have loved you and the others. I never hid that love from her and I have been honest enough to talk about you and the others regularly.” He smiled. “It’s actually the reason that while she’s worried about meeting you, she is not worried that I’ll never return to Twenty Three.”
“Why is that?”
“She has known, pretty much from the day that we met, that I intended to return to the women that I love. Nothing would keep me from that and I never wavered in that determination, not once through seven hundred years of lovers and work and mission and everything else. Now she is one of the women that I love and she knows that she is one of the ones that I will always return to. The only way I would even consider never returning to Twenty Three is if she, Ari and Helesatra aren’t there anymore.”
“That does make a girl feel pretty good,” Ninhursag said with a contented smile as she snuggled closer against him. “It certainly makes this girl feel good to hear it.” She kissed his cheek. “Does Arithallos or Helesatra worry about us?”
“Not really. Ari is a dragon and she has all of the conceit that a dragon has. You’re not a dragon and, until you two become friends, you don’t matter. As for Helesatra, in some ways she was as broken as Sofia was when I first acquired her. And she is just as certain of her place in my life as Sofia is now.”
“That does help.” She smiled at him. “When can I meet them?”
“Thursday in two weeks.” He chuckled. “One of the hardest things I’ve had to do since my return is to reorient myself back to a seven day week. For seven hundred years I’ve used the tenday, which is much more logical and easier. I really haven’t done it yet, I’ve just been faking it and doing the math in my head to make it sound like I have.”
Ninhursag laughed. “That is amusing.” She sobered. “Why are we waiting until Thursday in two weeks?”
“It’s the first time you, April, Kasserine and Ava all had available time free at the same time.” He grinned. “Now you don’t.”
Ninhursag’s eyes unfocused for an instant. “You’re right. I’ll let the others know so they can be ready. Are we going there or are they coming here?”
“They’re coming here for the first meeting, although we may go there towards the end of it. Tell everyone to have an overnight bag ready for use, just in case. This is the clan’s headquarters, and you are the successor to the Grey so I want them to come to your territory before you go to theirs.”
“That’s very sweet of you,” Ninhursag said quietly. “It’s a little disquieting that you know me that well, but it’s still sweet.”
Iain grinned. “It’s not just you and it’s not just pokegirls. All women would rather meet strangers in their territory or someplace neutral, especially other women. I will also admit that men can be that way too.”
“What about drakes?”
Iain smirked. “Drakes and dragonesses almost always meet, especially for the first time, on neutral ground. Although neither will admit it, each one of them is worried that the other might ambush them.”
“Are you that way?”
“I am not. I often host dragons in my territory. Anyone looking to ambush me will end up dead if they try and most dragons around my valley have either learned this important life lesson from hearing about the stupid ones who tried to attack me or were the ones who attacked me and got turned into object lessons for the everyone else to learn from.” His arm tightened around her. “When do you want me to leave for Twenty Four?”
“Never, but you should probably leave in the morning after breakfast.”
“I have to be at Kerrik’s tomorrow. I can go after that if you’d like.” He reached out with his twee. Theodora, I will need transport, please.
Board the Theodora after breakfast and I’ll have it waiting for you when you arrive. I’ll start preparing the gate for activation after midnight.
You are most welcome Iain.
“Ok, Theodora has transport lined up for me so I can travel in style.”
“You’re not going to shadow walk?”
“I need to get back into the habit of using it, but not for this. It would be rude to exit inside the solarium again and I don’t have any other exit points mapped. I’ll take a shuttle to the Ouroboros and have Daya give me a car of some kind that won’t stick out while I’m driving it around.” He chuckled. “Or considering that I’m visiting the Addams home, maybe I’ll want the most distinctive vehicle I can get my hands on. I’ll let Daya and Marguerite make that decision.”
Theodora’s voice sounded from a point in front of them. “I’ll send a message to Daya so she and Marguerite can hopefully have something waiting for you when you arrive.”
“Thank you.” He looked at Ninhursag. “That good enough for you?”
She nodded, with a smile. “It is.” She extricated herself from his arms and stood. “I’d love to stay, but I have duties I must attend to just as you do. Thank you for being so understanding about what we did while you were gone.”
“I don’t like it,” Iain said frankly. “Please keep that in mind. I do, however, agree with your reasoning and I can’t fault your desire for us to get stronger, especially after what happened.” He smiled. “Now the whole having children thing you mentioned, that sounds like a lot of fun.”
Ninhursag chuckled as she headed for the door. “Well, in your rush to get more of your harem pregnant, don’t forget the ones like me who already carry your kits.”
“I haven’t yet and I’m not going to start now.” He watched her leave before standing and stretching. He looked at the report waiting on his desk. “I think it’s time Garett and I had a talk about how I’m done wasting paper and time so he can stay wedded to the past.” He grinned suddenly. “After all, it’s not just Lorena who can fire me.” Whistling a ballad about the story of the halfling who became a king completely by accident, he headed for his desk and the report.
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)