This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copywritten. Everything in this work is mea culpa. 

            This work is the property of Kerrik Wolf (saethwyr@ (SPAM) Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.

            You should not read this work if you are under the age of legal consent wherever you reside. This work may or may not contain any and/or all of the following: death, cannibalism, dismemberment, violent acts, implied sex, explicit sex, violent sex, rape, blasphemy (depending on your religion), BDSM, torture, mimes, necrophilia and just about anything unwholesome that you could consider.

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Loose Threads

One Hundred Twenty Five

             Kerrik smiled and gestured. “And now you’ll show me some ki extension.” He was motioning towards a three meter tall A frame sawhorse that had two bells hanging from it. Iain estimated that the first one probably weighed around twenty kilos. The second was massive and easily more than a tonne in weight.

            “Those were a bitch to hang, especially that big one,” Misery said from where she was watching. “What’s he supposed to do with them?”

            Pandora glanced at her and then Ganieda, but the Snugglebunny Splice was busy looking around alertly as she was supposed to do.

            “He’s supposed to move them from a distance and without using easily detected magic,” Kerrik said. “The small bell is the starter bell that everyone uses and the larger bell is for someone who is working towards master status in my style.” His eyes met Iain’s. “Iain will show us both of them today.”

            Iain looked around. “I thought Raven would be here in case you turned her loose on me.”

            “She’s visiting some people up north,” Misery said.

            “Is she up at Winston’s with Glinda and Tattypoo?”

            Misery blinked at him and shook her head. “How do you know all of this?”

            “I just do.” He looked at Kerrik. “Do I do the whole thing or just the final part for the small bell?”

            “If you can do the small bell, but not the clapper trick,” Kerrik said as his ears twitched, “at ten meters and without warming up, then do it.”

            “We’re about ten meters away.” Iain raised his right hand, palm facing outward towards the bells and made a sharp pushing motion. The small bell swung and hit the clapper, ringing itself.

            “What’s the clapper trick,” Misery asked.

            “Instead of swinging the heavier bell, you move the clapper,” Kerrik said.

            The Hunter Mini-Top nodded. “OK. It’s an interesting parlor trick, but does it have any real use?”

            “One of the standardized uses for it is to use it, at a distance to shove someone out a window or off of a battlement,” Kerrik replied. “So that’s either an untraceable assassination or removing a guard and providing a distraction while you infiltrate or exfiltrate someplace, and without leaving a magical trace when you do. It’s also a gateway into more advanced uses for ki energy.” He looked at Iain. “So, have you worked with a bell this big?”

            “No, but it’s supposed to be just a matter of scale,” Iain admitted.

            “That’s correct,” Kerrik noted, “but a lot of people have a big problem turning those words into reality. Can you?”

            “We’re about to find out,” Iain said. He placed his palm on the bell and pushed. It moved. He pushed harder and it hit the clapper, ringing softly. “Hmm.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “Have you gotten stronger?”

            “Yes,” Iain replied absently as he pushed on the bell a few times before grabbing the bell portion and pulling it to a halt.

            “You’ve gotten a lot stronger,” Kerrik said. Ganieda and Pandora suddenly were both watching closely. “How?”

            “Gravity training twice a week.” Iain moved until he was the proper distance from the bells again. “Let’s see what happens.”

            Kerrik was watching him with a stoic expression. “You can start from closer if you would like.”

            “I have proven I can do this with the small bell,” Iain as focused on the bells. “It’s the same principle with the larger one. The distance shouldn’t be an issue unless I am really far away from it.”

            Kerrik smiled. “Most people don’t realize that. Good job.”

            Iain raised his hand and made the sharp pushing motion once more. The large bell slammed against the clapper and kept going upwards until its weight pulled over the frame holding it and the smaller bell. They smashed to the ground with a loud noise and rolled a small distance away. He gave Kerrik a slightly embarrassed look. “I think I overdid it just a little.”

            “I think that was just a bit of an understatement,” Kerrik noted as he walked over to stand next to Iain. “Control is paramount in my style, Iain.”

            “I know. I never said I’d achieved mastery.”

            Kerrik put his hand on Iain’s shoulder. “No, you haven’t, but you’re closer than you think.” He shook his head slightly. “Shikarou never got as far as you have and Faelan wasn’t all that interested in the work that was necessary.”

            “I need to go visit him.”

            Kerrik squeezed gently and let his hand fall away. “Are you and he friends? If not, I’d suggest you leave him be for the moment. Let him and Svetlana grieve and let Tanika comfort them both.”

            “I don’t want him to learn the lesson that Shikarou kept trying to teach him involving ignoring our existence,” Iain said quietly. “I’ve always had to reach out to them first and, if I don’t, he won’t ever let me know when I can visit.”

            “Stephen will let you know when it’s safe,” Kerrik replied. “And if he doesn’t, I will. I haven’t forgotten the debt I owe you.” Iain gave him a puzzled look and he smiled. “I’m not alone here because you hid a damper on my property.”

            “I absolve you of that debt. I’m just sorry I couldn’t sneak one into Haven after they found the first one.”

            Kerrik’s ears flicked. “And I should have plopped one down in the middle of their capital and told Shikarou and the others to leave it the fuck alone. I knew that the lunatics had access to nuclear weapons and I should have drawn the obvious conclusion.” He ground his teeth audibly. “After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve had them used against me. You, at least, tried to prevent what happened.”

            “I think you’re both making a mistake,” Ganieda said. They turned to look at her as Pandora scowled at the Snugglebunny Splice. “Stop blaming yourselves for what happened or what didn’t. It was the leagues that attacked us and that’s all there is to it.” She looked at Iain. “There was no way we could have successfully placed another damper in place after they found the first one.” Her gaze switched to Kerrik. “And you’re not a god and you can’t foresee absolute lunacy. The leagues are the only ones to blame for what happened. Shikarou, us, you, none of us should have needed a nuclear damper and all of the people we lost should still be alive today!”

            Kerrik eyed her for a long moment before speaking in a conversational voice. “Does she make sense like this often?”

            “Sometimes,” Iain replied as he watched Ganieda’s ears flick uncertainly backwards.

            “What do you do when she does?”

            Iain smiled. “I reward her so she’ll do it more often.” Ganieda visibly relaxed.

            “Good. Keep doing that because she’s right.”

            Iain grinned. “I’ll find something that she likes to give to her.”

            Misery snickered. “I’m sure you will.” She looked at Kerrik. “Want us to stand that thing back up?”

            “I think the frame is cracked and I wouldn’t trust it to hold the larger bell,” Kerrik replied, “and we’re done here anyway.” He turned to Iain. “I’m going to put together a longer test for you next week during your normal class. That’ll help us determine exactly where you are in your studies and then we can plan how to get you to the next level.”

            “Sounds good,” Iain replied. “Do you have anything else for today?”

            “Not with you. I’ve got Kasserine and Ava this afternoon for magic and a report to finish for Garrett. Then we’re off to Misery’s old lair. It’s got a lot of loot in it she wants to bring here.” He glanced at Iain. “You?”

            “I’ve got a trip to take.”

            “Are you going to be gone another five days?”

            Iain chuckled. “I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. It’s turning out to be a much bigger problem than I thought it would be.”

            Pandora made a noise suspiciously like a snort. “More than any of us thought it would be.”

            “We don’t like it when Kerrik is gone for any length of time either,” Misery noted. “It tends to make us,” she paused as if considering her words, “fractious.”

            “More fractious,” Kerrik muttered. Misery stuck out her tongue at him.

            ‘Well, if you’re done with me for now,” Iain said, “we need to be going.”

            Kerrik nodded. “Be well, Iain.”

            “Be well, Kerrik.” He took Ganieda’s hand. “Home, ladies.” The three of them vanished.

            Kerrik looked at Misery. “I’ve got an hour and a half until Kasserine and Ava show up for class. Let’s go see if I can fuck some of that fractiousness out of you.”

            “Yeah!” Misery grabbed his hand and they teleported to her room.


            Iain released Ganieda’s hand as he smiled at both women. “Thank you for guarding me at Kerrik’s.”

            “It is our job and our pleasure,” Pandora said quietly. “Later, can you explain how you did some of the things we saw today?”

            “I can try. It might be easier to try and teach you the style instead.”

            “You’ve been studying it for seven hundred years and aren’t a master yet,” Pandora pointed out. “I’m not sure I want to dedicate that much time to any single thing.”

            “My problem was that I didn’t have a master to teach me and help me progress,” Iain replied. “I didn’t have any instructors or anything except the Wolf database. While it’s very detailed, the fact that Kerrik’s memories and emotional loading were removed from it means I can’t feel how he did things.” He shrugged. “Yes, it sounds weird. More importantly, if I had had an instructor, I would be a medium to high level master by now. I expect that Kerrik will rush to certify me as one so I can help him teach his other students, including Kasserine and Ava, which means I’ll be teaching here and so lessons will be available for you and everyone else who is interested.” He frowned for a second and shook his head. “Anyway, we’ll continue this later. Thanks again and you’re free to go.”

            “Heather will be here in a moment,” Pandora said. “We’ll wait for her.”

            “We’re home.” He stopped what he was going to say. “Fine.”

            A couple of minutes later Heather jogged up. “You had him now I got him,” she said with a grin.

            “So when do I get my reward,” Ganieda asked curiously.

            “Are you free tonight to keep me company?”

            Her eyes lit up. “I am.”

            “Then I’ll see you after dinner.”

            She gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll be there,” she whispered against his lips before vanishing.

            Pandora shook her head. “Is that really her reward?”

            “No. I’ll figure something really nice. She did violate protocol, but she did it for a very good reason. That is part of your job, but right now people are learning what my new rules are and when they should violate them as opposed to just wanting to violate them.”

            Pandora nodded. “I’ll pass the word around about this. How steep is the learning curve on this going to be?”

            “I don’t flog people, if that’s what you’re asking.”

            “No, but April might take it upon herself to correct behavior she doesn’t feel is appropriate. She’s done it before.”

            “So have you,” Heather pointed out.

            “It’s part of my job,” Pandora replied. “But, especially considering the new situation, I’ll make a better habit of checking with Iain for guidance when I can before I address what I feel is a problem.”

            Heather grinned. “That’s all we ask for, consistency. You, me, Ganieda, Dianthus and Scheherazade all want to protect Iain just as much as we can.” She looked at Iain. “The question is how much is the new Iain going to restrict what we can do?”

            “It’s a very good question,” Iain said, “and right now I don’t have a complete answer except to say we’ll find out together. I am not made of porcelain and I am not going to put up with everything I did before. Having said that, I know this world is dangerous and I am not going to forego all of my protection.”

            “You said you don’t fight pokegirls,” Pandora said quietly. “Does that mean you can’t fight them or you won’t so we can do it for you?”

            “The answer to that is the same as it was before I left. Then, it was that I can probably take care of myself against some pokegirls but not all of them. Now, I can probably defeat a broader range of pokegirls without ending up with crippling injuries, but there are still a bunch of girls that would tear me into shreds. The difference between then and now is that most of them would actually have to break a sweat while doing it and I am unlikely to die no matter what they do to me.” He smiled. “I took a whole bunch of steps to make me a lot harder to kill even when I probably should have died.”

            “If I shoot you in the head with my shotgun, what will happen?”

            “There will be a huge mess and a contingency spell set will activate to move me to a new room in my quarters on the Theodora where Theodora has a medic waiting and remotes who can load me into it if I can’t get into it under my own power.” His smile faded. “I’m still working out how to keep from becoming a lich if I die, so I focused on making sure that death will have to work very hard to get me.”

            Pandora frowned. “Is this place phase blocked?”

            “It’s blocked as completely as Theodora can come up with and I intend to add magical layers to that protection later. There is a key and I am the only person who has it. Otherwise, Theodora controls the access to it and Daya has the codes just in case.”

            “Good.” Pandora shook her head. “Yes, I’m going overboard, but sometimes I think that bodyguarding you was the reason I came into existence.”

            “I don’t think you’re right, but whether you are or not, you are the commander of my guard.” He cocked his head. “And you’re about to be late to training.”

            Pandora summoned and spread her wings. “I’ll see you later.” Then she launched herself into the air and raced away.

            “Where to,” Heather asked.

            “We’re going to my lab for a few minutes. There’s something I need there before I go to Twenty Four.”

            Heather followed him into the house and down into the basement where he stopped and took her hand. “Take me to the north side of the reservoir, to that boat dock we visited last month.”

            She teleported immediately. “Iain, what’s going on?”

            “I have to talk to someone. Guard me.”

            “This place is outside the single guard zone.”

            “Today you’re it.”

            She nodded reluctantly. “I will have to inform Pandora.”

            “Not now.”

            “I’m going to get in trouble.”

            “Send them to me. I’ll either deal with it or take your place.”

            She frowned. “You can’t take my place.”

            Iain smiled. “I am the Grey and if I say I can take your place and Theodora makes sure they don’t manage to successfully do an end run around me, I can take your place.”

            She dropped her bow from her shoulder. “I am guarding you.”

            Iain took a deep breath. “Tanika, I am sorry to disturb you, but Kerrik says you’re on this world and I need your help with something that may involve your father.”

            Tanika appeared. Her ears flicked backwards for a second. “What do you mean?”

            “First, I want to express my condolences for all the people in your family who died.”

            She nodded; her face unusually serious. “Thank you, but I know where the satellites that Kozakura and Stephen are using to fracture the leagues came from. I should be thanking you for allowing them the chance at revenge. Now, why did you call me?”

            “There’s a trespasser on my property.” Iain pulled a memory globe from his head. “The problem is that it is invisible to visible sight, Theodora’s sensors and just about anything else that can detect it, so I’m the only one that can see it right now.”

            She didn’t reach for the globe. “How can you see it?”

            “I just spent seven hundred years on a mission for my teacher. During that time I was a priestess of Eilistraee and a priest of Mielikki. They came by a lot and they liked to use that god cloak they have in order to surprise me. I learned how to discern its presence and then, later, nullify it without anyone noticing what I’d done. This trespasser is using that technique, which could prove problematic. I think it’s a minimal silver dragon, which very likely involves your father, although I can’t fathom any reason that he’d be interested in me or mine.”

            Her ears flicked. “What were you doing for seven hundred years?”

            “I was on Toril and cataloging the last of the Crown Wars in excruciating detail.”

            Tanika took the memory globe and pushed it into her temple. “Why were you doing that?”

            “Because I was told to. Don’t ask why I was told to do that, please.”

            “She was never my teacher, something I’m very grateful for.” Tanika’s lips lifted in a silent snarl to show her needle sharp canines. “You’re right, it’s a minimal silver.” Her ears flattened back. “And it can hide from me.” She met his eyes. “What do you know about the minimal dragons?”

            “A lot. Probably more than I know about you.”

            “Then you know that unless my father or someone like him gave this one some magic item, only a few of them can hide like this one is doing.”

            Iain nodded. “I am aware of that. I’m also aware that even fewer of them are silvers.”

            “If it was sent by Father, he won’t tell me anything about it,” Tanika said. “And if he didn’t send it he might not admit it.”

            “I wasn’t going to ask you to confront him.”

            “Then what are you going to do?”

            “I wanted you to verify what I thought it was and I wanted you to know in case I suddenly turn up dead. Theodora knows too and so does Heather, but you can warn Kerrik.”

            “I will. So, I ask again, what are you going to do?”

            “I have someone on my property that I don’t know. I’m going to introduce myself to them.”

            Heather gasped.

            Tanika flashed a quick grin. “And minimal dragons are made up of ninety percent curiosity and ten percent meat. That just might work.”

            “I’ll find out. Thank you for coming and answering my questions. You’ve been very helpful.”

            She grinned again. “So you owe me a favor?”

            “I never offered anything for this conversation. However, if there is something you want, I will give it a priority consideration.”

            Her grin didn’t go away. “I had to try. Do you like me more than Magdalene?”

            He chuckled. “I have very few friends, Tanika, and I count you in that select group. I don’t quantify how much I like my friends, I merely like them and deeply appreciate their insanity in being friends with someone like me.”

            Tanika’s grin became an amused smile. “You are very good at making me feel special without really making me special. Is that something you learned in dealing with the women in your family?”

            “Mostly I learned it while dealing with ambassadors, diplomats and merchants who wanted something from me and hoped they’d get the better end of the bargain than I did.”

            “So you didn’t spend that seven centuries being a recluse?”

            “No, I built a cadet branch of Grey there, pretty much by accident.”

            “Could I see it someday?”

            “I’d be glad to give you a tour.”

            Tanika nodded. “Thank you, Iain. Let me know what’s going on with the minimal, please.”

            “I will if I can. Could you let me know when visiting Faelan won’t cause more problems for him and Svetlana?” Iain grinned. “I mean, technically I’m his step grandfather.”

            Tanika burst out laughing. “I hadn’t realized that Kasserine is his grandmother and my mother in law.” Her laughter faded. “Does that make it incest if we have sex?”

            “No, it doesn’t.”

            “That’s good.” She laughed at his startled expression. “Yes, that means what you think it does. It won’t be anytime soon, but I am definitely thinking about it.”

            “I’m sure we can work something out,” Iain said carefully.

            “That’s it, be smart. I like my men smart.” She vanished.

            Iain looked at Heather. “Am I screwed?”

            “Absolutely.” She smiled. “And probably by Tanika. Maybe also by Magdalene.” Her smile vanished. “So are you saying that there is someone at the ranch that nobody can see but you?”


            “Are you certain that you’re seeing something that’s there?”

            I first saw it yesterday. I informed Theodora and she couldn’t detect anything out of the ordinary. I sent her markers for where I saw the dragon sitting in a tree and she found DNA. She is running it now, but we have already determined that it is draconic and not me.”

            “Shit,” Heather muttered. “Does Ninhursag know?”

            “You’re the first person to find out except for Theodora. I didn’t want to give away that I could see it and people wandering around and randomly looking at things just might do that. I wish Mielikki was here, but she’s not and I get to be the man in the box.” He grimaced. “And I want to get this done before I go to Twenty Four, so it’s back to the ranch.” He held out his hand. “Heather, transport please.”

            She took his hand. “What do you want me to do? You are going into a hazardous situation at the ranch and I have to tell Pandora or somebody something.”

            “Shit.” Ninhursag?

            There was a pause of a few seconds. What is it, Iain?

            There is an intruder on the ranch property that only I can see but Theodora has verified as being real. I am going to politely confront it now. Heather is with me. I do not want to warn it that I know it is here until I introduce myself to it and ask its business with us, so I am telling you not to raise our alert level.

            I want a constant feed from your vision sent to Theodora.

            That’s already a thing, my love.

            Where is it now?

            I am not sure, but I’ll find it before I go to Twenty Four.

            Ninhursag changed her focus. Theodora?

            Iain heard her respond. Yes, Ninhursag?

            As soon as Iain makes contact you tell me so I can quietly alert our reaction team. You will be ready with drones.

            Understood and I will do so. 

            Thank you. We’ll be as ready as we can, Iain. I hope we aren’t needed.

            Me too. “I have briefed Ninhursag,” Iain told Heather.

            She nodded. “That satisfies my due diligence.” They were back at the ranch. “I will stay close but not interfere.”

            “Thank you. I’m going to be doing a bit of meandering.” He spent the next few minutes going around outside and near the house with Heather following him at a discrete distance. Finally he stopped, facing a tree. “Good afternoon, my name is Iain Grey and I’d like to welcome you to our property. I know you’ve been here for the last couple of days and, if I can, I’d like to have you be our guest instead of hiding from us. May I ask you for your name?”

            There was a shimmer and Heather could suddenly see a small silver dragon, maybe two feet long. It was resting on a branch of the tree about ten feet off of the ground. It spoke in a feminine voice. “My name is Morgana. How is it that you were able to detect my presence?”

            Iain smiled without showing any teeth. “I think I am going to politely decline to reveal that information.”

            “I thought perhaps you would make that decision since knowledge is power. May I be your guest?”

            “Do you understand what it means to be a guest of mine?”

            The dragon cocked her head. “I do not.”

            “If you are my guest, we will be responsible for your care and upkeep during your visit. We will provide you with what you need and as much of what you might want as we can, within certain restrictions. If need be, we will defend you from attack. In return, you will conduct yourself properly and as politely as you can. You will respect us and our land and not hunt on it without permission and you will respect the boundaries we request that you follow on where you may and may not go.”

            “Your terms are not what I was expecting,” Morgana said. “That gives me much more latitude than I am used to having when I visit someone.”

            “We are clan and our ways are not the ways of the Empire’s Houses.”

            Morgana’s tail twitched. “What do you know of the Empire?”

            “Most of what I know is generalities and the names of some of the Great and Lesser Houses. We have no contact with them and do not seek any. Would you like to be my guest?”

            “I would.”

            “Excellent. We have a very nice guest room set aside for you that I hope you like. It’s sized for people like me, but that just means the bed will be very roomy indeed.” He smiled. “Theodora?”

            She appeared, making Morgana jump in surprise. “Iain.”

            “This is Morgana, and she is going to be our guest. Please let everyone know who she is and not to let the children pester her.”

            “I’ll take care of it,” Theodora said. “Morgana, I am Theodora and I am the inorganic intelligence who watches over this place. I am available at any time for questions or requests.”

            “I understand. Thank you.”

            “You’re very welcome. All you have to do is say my name.” She vanished.

            Morgana launched herself at Iain and he caught her. She curled up in his arms. “Why would children pester me?”

            “They like playing chase the dragon with me and they’re children so they’re not very discriminating.”

            “I overheard Magdalene tell Sjaelland that you were a dragon. You let children chase you?”

            Iain smiled as he nodded to Heather and headed for the house. “Sometimes I do. My small form is not much larger than you are and I let the kids pick the games they play. Chasing me is one that’s almost universally liked.”

            Morgana’s head lifted to look up at him. “Magdalene was looking for a wife from our family for you. She sounded like you are not a minimal dragon.”

            “I’m not. I can take the form of a much smaller dragon, though, I use it both for agility flying training and playing with the kids.” They stopped at the front door, which swung silently open. “Theodora, since Morgana can’t operate the door, would you do it for her when she wishes to enter or leave?”

            “I’d be glad to,” her voice said from the door.

            “Thank you.”

            “I also wish to thank you,” Morgana said from where she rested in Iain’s arms.

            “You are very welcome,” Theodora replied. “I will also operate the shower and other items for you if you wish.”

            “That would be very kind,” Morgana looked up at Iain. “Do you have many guests who are small like I am?”

            “You’re the first.” Iain headed inside and up the stairs. “Your room will be on the second floor.”

            “Room 202,” Theodora’s voice supplied helpfully.

            “And here it is.” The door was numbered 202 and it swung open as Iain stepped into the room. “It’s got a nice king sized bed and that door is the closet while that door is the bathroom.”

            “I do not need all of this,” Morgana protested softly.

            “You are a guest and guests get a guest room, even if you only use the pillow or the counter.” He chuckled. “We do not provide loaner hoards for sleeping on, although, if you really wanted it we could probably come up with a big pile of copper coins for you to lie on.”

            Morgana’s head snapped up to stare at his face for a moment before she started laughing. “You have an interesting sense of humor,” she said between laughs.

            “No, I’ve hosted dragons before,” Iain replied wryly. “There’s a mated pair of golds I’m friends with who came by whenever they wanted real cooking since they don’t have a stove and neither of them knows more about cooking than coming to my place or going to an inn.” He carefully deposited her on the bed. “Which seems to be fairly typical for many dragons.”

            Morgana chuckled. “And they are too big to try to look cute as many minimals try to do when they beg for food.”

            “Yes. If they jumped up on the table I’d need a new table. And chairs and anything on the table and anything near the table.”

            She nodded. “What do you do if you want cooked food?”

            “I am quite capable of cooking with campfires, stoves and ovens.”

            Heather flashed a smile from the doorway. “The truth is that he’s a very good cook. He’s better than me and many others.”

            Morgana nodded. “And what is your name, young lady?”

            “I am Heather. It is my pleasure to meet you and to welcome you to our home.”

            “Thank you.” Morgana looked up at Iain. “May I ride on your shoulder?”

            Iain replied with a teasing smile. “With all due respect, we’ve just met, lady, and I don’t know you well enough for either shoulder, even my off shoulder.”

            Morgana sat up straight, her wings folding up tightly against her torso. “You do know more about us than I thought. How is this possible?”

            “With the understanding that I am not a threat to you or to anything you hold dear and my mind cannot be read, not even by gods,” Iain said quietly, “I have this strange knack of knowing things that some would say is impossible for me to know without being present someplace that I have never been.”

            “To have knowledge like that is not a blessing,” Morgana said. “Why admit such things to me?”

            “You are a reasonable being and you are willing to believe, without evidence to the contrary that I am not a danger to anything you value. I would not make such an admission to Drake until after he knew me for several centuries,” Iain smiled, “and only after I knew he would believe that I would willingly use such knowledge to advance his desires.”

            Morgana chuckled. “Wise.” She walked to the edge of the bed and sat, curling her tail around her body and cocking her head. “I will not tell him about what you know if you let me ride on your shoulder.”

            “And if I do not let you ride on my shoulder, right now, will you then rush off to tell him what you have discovered?”

            “You were not supposed to ask a question like that,” Morgana said in a tone of amusement.

            “You are going to discover that we have a Sidhe and a contingent of other fey beings who are clan and are living here with us. Because of their presence, I have learned to parse words with what I hope are the best of them. Besides, I couldn’t carry you for long today. I have to go on a trip and won’t be back for a couple of hours. When I return, we can negotiate out something like you becoming familiar enough to me for me to allow you to ride on my off shoulder.” He smiled. “Just understand that I am well aware of something that most people tend to forget about minimal dragons.”

            “What is that?”

            “Their hearing is very good, they are people in their own right and they are usually at least as smart the person who they are riding and who forgets that and lets them hear things they might not otherwise say around people like you if they looked more like people like me.”

            “I can see why Magdalene thought you are worthy of finding a decent wife from her father’s line to protect you from him.” She cocked her head curiously. “Do you know the mistake she has made?”

            “It’s something that she doesn’t really understand. What she’s trying to do won’t protect me if Drake decides I’m a real threat. He’s more of a narcissistic sociopath than I am, but I recognize what he is. He’d wipe out his own family if necessary, much less a son in law, if his survival was threatened.”

            “Correct. As long as he survives, he can have more children and he can always find new women to bear them for him.” She walked up the bed and curled up on one of the pillows. “When you return, I would like to get to know you better. I will spend the time that you are gone speaking with Theodora, if I may, so that I may learn more about the rules I should follow as your guest.”

            “I think that would be nice. If I should be gone overnight, which is unlikely, someone will come to inform you when it is time for supper.”

            “Thank you.”

            Heather waited until the door closed and they were in the hall. “Who is that?”

            “You’ll learn whatever she chooses to reveal,” Iain said with a smile.

            “Is she a threat?”

            Iain chuckled as he headed for the basement. “Who isn’t, these days?”

            Heather put her hand on his arm and pulled him to a stop. “Iain, we need to know.”

            “Is Kerrik a threat? Is Magdalene a threat? Is Tanika a threat? Is Macavity a threat? Is Sexmet or Sekhmet or whatever the fuck she’s calling herself here a threat? Am I a threat to others? The answer to all of those questions is no, not right now. Later?” Iain shrugged. “Maybe.” He took Heather’s hand in his. “Morgana is polite and civilized. I don’t think anything here except getting her tail yanked on by a kid is likely to upset her and she is more likely to scare the crap out of the kid than hurt her. She’s been around human and human like children before. And, unlike Macavity, she’s not capricious. Just be yourself and friendly.”

            “What about this Drake person? He’s Magdalene and Tanika’s father, right?”

            “He is.”

            “So is he as bad as you and Morgana made him sound?”

            “He can be. And so can I.”

            “You don’t kill people that other people like me look at and say that you shouldn’t have killed that person, Iain. He sounds like someone rather different than you are.”

            Iain squeezed her hand firmly. “Heather, he is what I could be if I’m not careful, just like Kerrik is what I could be if I’m not careful. He and Kerrik aren’t the same, but all three of us are monsters far more dangerous than anything that James Scott created on this or any other world any analog of his ever existed on. I’m just a monster that’s not monstrous to you and the people I love.” He gave her a wry smile. “The thing that it took me over a century to realize is that there’s nothing wrong with being a monster. I’d been fighting it my entire life and that was my big mistake. I finally understood the truth, which is that monsters don’t have to be evil. Like some of the fey, some monsters are just not good, which is not at all the same thing as being evil.” He tugged on her hand. “Now I have to catch a shuttle.”

            Heather was quiet until they were on the Danger Room. “Iain, I don’t think you’re a monster. Sanderson was more of a monster than you could ever be and you saved me from him. You saved me from Ninhursag too. I thought she was going to kill me and even she isn’t sure what might have happened if you hadn’t interfered. But I don’t care if you want to call yourself a monster. As long as I’m yours and you’re mine, you can call yourself whatever you want.” Her eyes fixed his. “But you will not call yourself a monster to the children, not mine and not anyone else’s here. Their father is not a monster.”

            Should I try to explain to her so that she understands? No. She sees what she wants to see and, in the end, that is part of being allowed to choose how she perceives things since it doesn’t hurt anyone else. “Very well,” he replied gently.

            Heather suddenly wrapped her arms around him and pressed her body against his tightly enough that he gasped. “You are not to ever be away from me as long as you were when April sent you away.” She looked up at him as she loosened up her grip enough for him to breathe. “Do you hear me?”

            “I do and I won’t.”

            She pressed her cheek against his chest. “This is going to sound really stupid but tell me I’m special to you.”

            Iain kissed the top of her head. “You are my bonny Heather. There is no one like you and there never will be, not for me. I missed you constantly while I was gone. You keep a piece of me with you always and without your presence, I’m not really complete.”

            She looked up at him, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “I am going to get stronger; you just watch.”

            He frowned. “What do you mean?”

            “It’s what you want in women. I am as pretty as I am going to get and I can’t really get smarter, so I’m going to get stronger so you’ll eventually love me. Someday I’ll be as strong as Ninhursag is, I swear it!”

            Iain kissed her forehead and wrapped his arms around her. “Heather, you are already more than strong enough and smart enough and pretty enough to meet any expectation of you that I could ever have.”

            “But you love Ninhursag and you don’t love me. I will be more like her!”

            “Heather, you have never heard me tell you that I love you, and that’s all. I don’t love you yet and I don’t want my bonny Heather to become more like Ninhursag. You’re not her and I want you to be Heather and only Heather. When you first came here, you had no idea who Heather was.”

            “Yes, I did,” she said bitterly. “Heather was Sanderson’s punching bag.”

            “Then Heather became Heather Grey,” Iain said gently. “And Heather Grey found herself in a completely different world from anything she’d ever known before. I watched you rise to the challenges that you faced without hesitation or qualm. On top of all of that, you became my friend and my lover and then you joined my guard. I know full well just how hard Pandora and April push everyone who is permanently on my guard.”

            She looked surprised. “You do? April said you had no idea what we went through.”

            “April is just a wee bit incorrect on that. Theodora and Daya see all and, if I want them to, they report that all to me. I had to make sure that April’s program was making my guard better at its job of guarding me and not just turning them into what she thought they should be as opposed to what they really should be.” He winked. “And don’t you tell her.”

            She grinned suddenly. “I won’t.” Her smile faded. “I’m sorry for being weak in front of you.”

            “What the hell are you talking about?”


            “Heather, I cry too.”

            Her eyes widened. “You do?”

            “Yes, I do. I don’t cry in public, but there’s a good reason for it.”

            “What is that?”

            “When I cry, just like you, I let my emotions flow. That could be dangerous for those around me, so I don’t do it where others are around. I don’t even cry here on the Danger Room or any other clan vessel or station because I’m worried that I might accidentally destroy it.”

            “What do you do?”

            Theodora appeared. “I built Iain a small station just for his emotional outbursts. They’re not frequent, but he needed it after what happened in Austin. I monitor it remotely and he has instructions for me to evacuate him to another small station if that one starts having severe physical stresses that might destroy it.” She glanced at Iain and he nodded. “It hasn’t quite come to that yet, but it originally started out as a sphere and it’s now more of an oblong in shape after a specific event. He forbade a doorway on it and now the shuttle has to park outside after he damaged the lock too much for it to be used anymore. He doesn’t want me to fix the station so, when it gets damaged enough, I’ll just replace it completely.”

            “Oh.” Heather looked at him curiously. “Is it odd that knowing this makes me feel better?”

            “It’s not odd at all,” Iain said. “It’s proof that you’re human.”

            Heather smiled and pushed away from him. “Come back to us as soon as you can.”

            “You are still on duty as my guard,” Iain pointed out. “Theodora will show you to the closest break room and you can wait there in case I’m gone more than a few minutes.”

            “Yes, Iain.”

            “Heather?” She looked back at him. “I can’t tell you that I love you yet.”

            She blinked. “Will that day come?”

            “It will and I think it’ll come sooner than you think it will.”

            “Then I will wait as patiently as I can for that day, Iain, but you need to know that I already love you. Now go.” A yellow globe appeared and she followed it down a hallway.

            “Your shuttle is waiting in Launch Bay Twelve,” Theodora said. She watched him looking after Heather. “Their professionalism was quite good while you were gone. It’s only after you’ve returned and they feel that they’re safe to do so that they’ve let themselves fall apart a little. The fact that they don’t try to hide it from you is a sign of their feelings for you.”

            “I know. The clan, here, is in good hands if I end up dead and unable to come back.”

            “While Ninhursag would have a very steep learning curve involving the clan holdings on Twenty Three, I believe she would do well there too, especially since Zilvra, Arithallos and Helesatra would work with her to smooth the transition of power. From your memories I believe you did a good job of preparing them in case you never returned and Ninhursag appeared to take your place.”

            “Let’s not test that theory.” Iain headed for the closest transit station.

            “Considering that it would involve my one true love dying, I won’t,” Theodora said. “You don’t need a guide?”

            “I downloaded maps of the Danger Room when I returned. I still want your company and help, but it’s time I learned my way around this, the Theodora and the Ouroboros in case I need to.”

            “You make me so happy to see you maturing as you have.”

            Iain chuckled. “The fact that it only took me seven hundred years isn’t a harbinger of rapid progress to come.”

            “It took that long for you to find a reason not to lock away the man you became the first time you were gone for more than a decade, Iain. That’s the only difference I can see, and I can look pretty deeply into your psyche.”

            Iain dropped into a transit car. “Launch Bay Twelve.” The car closed its door and slid into the transit channel. “I think we should drop this for now. I don’t need my psyche examined.” He leaned back in the chair. “While we’re traveling, would you be so kind as to brief me on the information that Daya has sent you regarding the situation on Twenty Four?”


            Marguerite looked up at the roof of the Addams’ residence at Zareen where she sat and shook her head slightly as she turned to Dominique. “Has she said anything?”

            “She won’t.” Dominique glanced up at the roof. Predictably, Zareen had chosen a place well below the roofline of the house so she wasn’t visible against the dark, overcast sky. Knowing her and Daya, she was using the sensors scattered around the property to monitor everything around them as she stood sentry. “We didn’t expect to be gone this long and this is our first time doing anything like this. We’ll make sure that anyone else who does this requests a security contingent instead of one guard, even if it’s Zareen.”

            “We could take turns relieving her,” Marguerite offered.

            Dominique was already shaking her head. “She received her orders from Ninhursag. Only she can stand Zareen down or change her orders. And the only person who could countermand Ninhursag’s orders is Iain.” She glanced at the Unicorn. “And, honestly, you’re not trained as security so I wouldn’t let you relieve her even if Zareen would agree with it. And I can’t relieve her either, because of Ninhursag, again.”

            “I’m scheduled for that training,” Marguerite noted acidly.

            “Of course you are,” Dominique’s grin was almost blinding against her obsidian skin. “Without it you can’t rotate into Iain’s guard. It’s how April makes sure we all are security qualified.”

            “She’s only getting an hour of sleep or so every night because of the schedule that the various Addams keep,” Marguerite said. “How can she keep going?”

            “Zareen will endure almost anything to get the job done,” Dominique turned to look at Zareen again. “That’s why she got it.” She glanced at Marguerite. “Of course, that suggests you have those kinds of reserves too, what with her originally being your parthenogenic child and all.”

            “I have never had a child,” Marguerite rubbed her eyes. “Yes, she’s my analog’s daughter. Yes, that makes her my genetic twin, before she evolved into a Nightmare. That doesn’t make me like her. That and she’s what, three hundred years older than I am?”

            Dominique shrugged. “I see a lot of her in you, no matter how much you want to argue with me about it. You’ve got her drive, you just hide it for some reason. That’s why you’ll be a powerful mage and probably well before Rosemary is. Look, if Zareen collapses from exhaustion, I’ll take her job while she rests. If I try anything else, she’ll fight me over it, and it will come to blows if I insist. I have never fought Zareen in full combat mode and I do not want to, probably ever.”

            “She wouldn’t deliberately kill you but she wouldn’t hold back to prevent it,” Marguerite said quietly.

            “Just like you, right?”

            The Unicorn nodded. “Yes.” She made a face. “Fine, we’re more alike than I am normally willing to admit.”

            Morticia came walking up. “Good afternoon.” She smiled at them. “I must say, the weather has been remarkably good since your arrival. I think we will get some more light rain today as well.”

            “I think you may be right, Morticia,” Dominique said without the slightest trace of a smile. Daya had been monitoring the front since it had come ashore and she’d been briefing them on it twice a day.

            “Mamma has baked something new and she wanted me to ask you to sample it and give her your opinion on it,” Morticia said. “We can try it in the solarium.”

            Marguerite hesitated. Mamma’s creations were always interesting. Some of them had been rather good, but a few had been terrible and one had tasted, according to Zareen, like raw skunk. It had definitely been bad tasting to Marguerite, but she didn’t think she’d eaten skunk, at least she hadn’t while aware. The rain spattering around them decided it. It was cold, wet and unpleasant. “Then let us go to the solarium.” She looked at the rooftop. We are going inside to the solarium. Mamma made something new for us to eat.

            Zareen vanished from the rooftop and appeared behind Marguerite.

            Morticia smiled at them all again and headed inside. “I don’t expect Wednesday to return until the weekend again. Have you heard when Iain might be joining us?”

            “I believe he’s supposed to arrive later today,” Marguerite said smoothly as they entered the solarium. Lurch was laying out a tea service on a small side table while Mamma was bringing in a large tub of something bright green that seemed to glow from within. “Due to the vagaries in the differences between the timestream here and the timestream in One, I don’t think we can narrow it down much more than that.”

            “I see,” Morticia replied. “I will have a room prepared for his arrival, just in case.”

            “Thank you,” Marguerite said.

            “You are welcome,” Morticia replied. She paused when all three women stopped and turned to look up at the sky to the northwest. “Is something wrong?”

            Marguerite smiled as her delta bond with Iain came to life. “Do you feel it, Dominique?”

            “All,” Zareen said in a voice filled with satisfaction. “Iain.”

            Iain has exited the gate and is inbound for the Ouroboros for arrival, Daya told Marguerite. I will transfer him to the shuttle I have prepared and he will arrive in your area in fourteen hours and seven minutes. Theodora has partially briefed him on the situation and I will update his briefing before he arrives. He has requested that you tell the Addams representative that he will arrive in sixteen hours. Do you require anything added to his delivery?

            Marguerite chuckled through her twee. No, nothing that will help the negotiations with Wednesday and her family.

            Just easy to remove clothes, Daya asked innocently.

            We are not alone so no. I share about as well as Dominique does. But thanks for the thought.

            Daya laughed in her head. Understood. If anything changes I’ll give you an update.

            Thank you. Marguerite turned to Morticia. “Iain should arrive here in sixteen hours or so.”

            “Is he traveling a long way,” Morticia asked curiously.

            “The gate generator is on the other side of Jupiter to hide its presence,” Dominique said. “So yes, he’s still got a long way to go to get here.”

            Marguerite, I have been told that you are in command of this mission, Iain said through his bond with her. I will be arriving in a little more than fourteen hours, but I am not staying. All four of us are going to shadow walk to Thirteen where we will spend a few days getting reacquainted so I can spend time with each of you individually and so you can finish briefing me. Theodora will be providing active security so we don’t need to pass through return protocol before continuing on to Twenty Four, the universe we’re all currently in. Only a few seconds will pass where you are, so don’t try to explain to them what we will be doing. Make your excuses and all of you will be at the following coordinates, Marguerite received some coordinates a few miles from the Addams place via twee, when I’m supposed to arrive.

            We will be there. We didn’t realize we needed more security than Zareen and so she hasn’t had much rest. She won’t let us relieve her.

            I’ll handle my Nightmare, Iain reassured her. You’ll be debriefed when we return to One and, if we have to do this again, we’ll make sure things are thought out in more detail. That is not a criticism of you, by the way. It is just a comment on lessons learned. I suspect I’ll discover you’ve done a pretty good job, especially considering there wasn’t much preplanning.

            Thank you, Iain.

            Damn, I’ve missed you. See you soon.

            “We will meet Iain when he arrives,” Marguerite said to Zareen, Dominique and, indirectly, Morticia. “Because he’s in a spaceship, he won’t land here to keep from drawing attention to this place in case the shuttle is seen. We’ll bring him back here after greeting him.” She quickly sent more instructions via twee. Dominique nodded slightly while Zareen grinned. “Now, Morticia, I believe we had something of Mamma’s to sample?”


            Iain appeared as he stepped out of the cloaking field of the shuttle and held out his arms. “Group hug, ladies.” Marguerite, Zareen and Dominique wrapped him up in their arms and he made a happy noise. “I have missed you so much and for far too long.”

            “Five hundred years is too long to be away from me,” Dominique said with a smirk. “But you had to listen to someone so powerful you couldn’t ignore her.”

            Iain chuckled. “It was seven hundred years and you’re right.”

            “Why so long,” Marguerite asked.

            “I thought I needed the extra time to set up the infrastructure to do the job properly because I’d been warned that it was open ended until she was satisfied with the quality of my work and I didn’t want it to last for a thousand years or more. In retrospect it was probably overkill on my part but it did work and get me back to here and you just as soon as I’d hoped it would.”

            Zareen snorted. “Not fuck?”


            The Nightmare shot him a grin. “That way she satisfied quick.”

            Iain sighed. “Zareen, I’m tired of that. Stop it. The abuse that caused you to start talking like that ended years ago and now you’re just being as stubborn as I can be. I still understand you perfectly, but you are not going to teach our children to speak that way.”

            Zareen looked into his eyes for a long moment before nodding. “Do not expect me to be a chatterbox like some of your other mares.”

            “The way that you classify things, the only other ‘mare’ that’s in my family is Marguerite and she is far from a chatterbox.”

            Zareen smiled at him. “Our children. Dancer. Golden Cloud. You agreed to breed that one so she is your mare and the other wants you to breed her. You never said you didn’t want to breed her. Dancer won’t shut up.”

            Iain chuckled softly. “You pay way too much attention to my behavior, you know that?”

            “Easy way to tell what you really want.”

            Marguerite looked into his eyes curiously. “You want to breed Dancer?”

            “What I want and what I do are not always the same thing,” he replied. “What the future will bring isn’t every really certain, either.” He smiled. “And I think that for the time being I’m going to focus on the women that have already honored me by agreeing to allow me a favored place in their lives as opposed to chasing the huge group of women who have not.”

            “What about Wednesday,” Marguerite asked. “We did come here and bargain in good faith with her family.”

            “And, with your help, I am here to continue that,” Iain gave her a quick kiss and began working his way out of the hug. “Otherwise you’d have gotten a recall notice instead of me coming here.” He held out his hands. “Ladies, we’re off to Thirteen as soon as everyone is somehow holding hands with me.” Marguerite grabbed his left hand, Dominique his right and Zareen took Marguerite’s left hand. “Daya, we’ll be right back.”

            Understood, Iain. I have the gate open right now and Theodora confirms she’s got a gate open to Thirteen and is sending drones back and forth to maintain contact with the security systems there. As there is no intelligent life, that is acceptable under the protocols I am evolving. Be careful.

            “Will do.” He looked at all three ladies in turn. “You know to step when I say to and not to otherwise. Step.”

            The universe rotated around them and they found themselves standing in the exact same place they’d just left. There was a roar of wind and a bulky person wearing a brightly colored outfit with a cape attached to his neck flew by high overhead. He was closely followed by two other, more slender figures in differently colored outfits. Marguerite’s hand clamped down on Iain’s tightly as he spoke. “Step.”

            The universe rotated around them again and they were at the Ireland facility on Thirteen, inside the fenced safety zone around the buildings. Iain looked around. “Theodora?”

            She appeared. “I cannot maintain real time communication through an open gate, but I am here. It means my response time for talking may be a second or two.”

            “You’re still using drones to transit back and forth?”

            A second slid past and her eyes narrowed. “You know another way?”

            “Remind me to emplace some transparent gates so you can use laser modulated communication going forward.” He let go of both women’s hands. “I solved that problem about three hundred years ago.”

            Dominique put her hand on his shoulder. “Can you teach me how to do it?”

            “I did not do research into things like that because we do that sort of thing together, so we’ll certainly find out if we can puzzle it out. I also didn’t try to turn the pokegirl abilities I learned to mimic into spells, which really ticked off both Ari and Zilvra.”

            “Those are two of the wives you acquired there,” Dominique said slowly. “It didn’t tick of Helesatra?”

            “She spent several decades in my undead harem and knows more of my foibles than the others do. Have all three of you been to the Amazon River Basin site?”

            “I have,” Marguerite said as Dominique and Zareen nodded.

            “Good. Marguerite is one, Dominique is two and Zareen is three. Understood?” They nodded. “Excellent. Theodora, may I have a random number please, so I don’t get in trouble?”

            Theodora nodded and closed her eyes. “Your first random number is,” her eyes opened. “Two.”

            “Thank you. Marguerite, Zareen, please make yourselves comfortable here. Dominique and I are going to South America and we’ll be back in twenty four hours from five minutes from now. Does that work for everyone?”

            “That is fair enough,” Marguerite said as she smiled. “I have no useful complaint about your selection process.”

            “Good. Zareen?” She cocked her head curiously. “Theodora has security here, not you. You are relieved while we are here. You are to rest while I’m gone with Dominique and, later, with Marguerite. When we return to Twenty Four, I will share security with you.”

            She nodded. “Understood, stallion.” She looked at Marguerite. “I’ll be sleeping. Do not bother me unless it’s an emergency.” She headed for the house, shedding her clothes and draping them over her arm as she did.

            “When will I brief you,” Marguerite asked.

            “I’m going to spend the next three days with each of you in turn,” Iain replied. “After that we’ll spend a couple of days here, lounging around and taking care of the things like that.” He grinned. “You get some rest too. You’ll need it. Dominique.” They vanished.


            Iain wriggled his toes cheerfully as he leaned back against the tree. At the edge of the brook, Marguerite perched on a smooth, warm rock, nude, as she brushed out her waist length golden hair, and looking a lot like one of the mermaids from mythology. She smiled. “You’re watching me again.”

            “Can’t help it with such a gorgeous beauty in front of me,” he replied.

            “What about me,” Dominique asked. She was still in the brook and enjoying the cool water.

            “You are gorgeous too,” Iain said with a grin. “And so is Zareen.”

            The Nightmare, who had been curled up next to him in the shade of his tree, opened an eye to look inquiringly at him, made a rude sounding grunt and closed her eye again as she returned to her nap. She began to snore softly.

            Marguerite looked up at the sound and watched Zareen for a moment. “She is so relaxed around you.”

            “We’ve been through a lot together and she trusts me.” He gave the Nightmare an affectionate smile before looking back up at Marguerite. “So, what’s the plan with Wednesday and her family?”

            “When we arrived, they decided that we were there to evaluate Wednesday’s fitness to become harem,” Marguerite said. “It turns out that the Addams lines used to practice something similar and, in fact, Mamma was married under that custom.” She paused and frowned slightly. “I’m not quite sure how long ago that was. There are things in Mamma’s mind that contradict just how old she may be. Some of them suggest she’s in her late sixties but there are things in there that seem to be a lot older than that.”

            “The Frumps,” Iain said, “carry a high percentage of Sidhe and other fey blood in their veins. As Dominique and other people with longevity who have lived more than a century can attest, after a couple of centuries of not aging, things can kind of blur together as far as some memories go. What year something happened becomes less important than the fact that this particular event did actually take place. I experience it too, in some ways, but it can actually be a lot worse for people like Dominique or Lucifer because I’ve had a twee for almost all of my adult life and that helps keep things in order in my memories.”

            “He’s right,” Dominique said as she waded out of the brook and reached for a towel that had been hung from a tree branch. “I keep a journal to help me with dates and times, but events I never forget.”

            Marguerite’s frown deepened. “So she may not know how old she is?”

            “Exactly. People reach a point where they only count years to keep count and, for some, that’s never all that important so they eventually stop counting.” Iain looked thoughtful and then shrugged. “Like pokegirls, Sidhe and many other fey don’t go through menopause, so Mamma might actually be Morticia’s mother or she might be a much older relative, but it doesn’t really matter because Morticia treats her like her mother and Mamma acts like Morticia’s mother should. So, for all intents and purposes, they are mother and daughter.” He pulled his hair to the side and started braiding it. “How does this custom affect what we’re doing?”

            “It made Mamma decide she likes us,” Marguerite explained. “And it let them believe they understood our primary purpose in visiting. It was true, which helped. It turns out that Wednesday is the Addams family version of a hopeless romantic and wants to be courted under the same customs that Mamma was, one of which is that, at the end of successful negotiations, the bride to be is captured and kidnapped by the groom and his family if he needs help in carrying out the abduction.”

            Dominique smiled. “And the courting gifts that are exchanged often involve lethal traps and other romantic notions.”

            “I have to prove I can survive adverse conditions and situation,” Iain said wryly. “Well, at least I don’t expect to be dragged over an altar and have my heart chopped out of my body as a sacrifice to some stupid spider god.”

            “Was that a possibility there,” Dominique asked curiously.

            “Yes. I spent time in several places, including a few cities, where that happened to the unlucky, the unwary, the random and the occasional guilty person. I had to go there and places like it on a regular basis because Eilistraee wants us to help people escape from places like that.”

            “How did that feel,” Dominique asked. When he raised an eyebrow, she smiled. “You are not an altruistic person by nature.”

            “I agreed to follow the precepts of Eilistraee’s religion when I became a priestess and I was already a priest of Mielikki, who believes in similar things. I turned it into a game of me versus all the evil drow and their minions.”

            Dominique’s smile became an evil grin. “And how badly did they fare during this game?”

            “Well, my goal was to get the people out safely and alive. It turns out that running battles make that a lot harder than some people might expect. This meant I had to be creative. I’d get the people out, often buying them from slavers and then I’d later hit the slaving expeditions while they were hunting for slaves and wipe them out. I’d rescue any slaves that weren’t themselves evil, release the ones that didn’t want to go with me and rinse and repeat.” He smiled amusedly. “Let’s just say that because of me and a handful of other people, the price of slaves in the biggest cities went up dramatically and drow had to actually start taking care of their slaves,” his smile faded. “At least a little, because we cut the flow of slaves into those cities to a trickle.” He shrugged. “We actually stopped it for a while, but then the price of slaves rose so much that wizards started teleporting slaves into the cities because of the profit they could make.” His smile returned. “And then we started killing the slaver wizards. We could never get to many of them, but we did make the survivors at least have to expend resources they’d normally be using to transport slaves to instead transport guards to protect them. And then the usual happened.”

            Marguerite began braiding her hair. “What was that?”

            “The other adventurers got older and found other priorities, like spending time with their families and remaining limbs, and our pressure on the cities faded and the slaves started getting back into them in larger numbers.” He shrugged again. “The only way to really stop the slave trade is to destroy or remake the cities and Eilistraee isn’t ready to allow that to happen. Xune, me and Keanellos sat down and worked on plans to invade Guallidurth and make it clan, but the logistics would have been a nightmare and the death toll on both sides horrific. It would be far easier to destroy the city than it would be to capture it.” He grimaced. “And Eilistraee warned me that what happened would happen. I was still too young to realize she was right, but we did hurt them for a while and we rescued a bunch of slaves. That’s still a win.”

            “Who is Keanellos?”

            “He’s my son by Helesatra and a general in Vyshaan. He was in line to be the Vyshaan, but his sister, Regwyn, took over the position when she came of age. She’s probably going to do a better job of it than Helesatra has, but only when her mother decides to step down.” He looked at Marguerite. “What does capturing and kidnapping Wednesday entail?”

            She stopped braiding her hair. “Honestly, I’ve never planned a kidnapping.”

            “Warn her.” Zareen sat up, her metallic gold hair falling around her. “It’ll be more fun.”

            “I’m not sure about that,” Marguerite said slowly. “I saw some of the traps she set up in the hall. They were pretty dangerous. And I’m sure that there were some we didn’t see.”

            “You didn’t see,” Zareen noted. “I saw more than you.”

            “Did you point them out to Marguerite,” Iain asked quietly.

            “No. I’m sorry, but I didn’t.” She glanced at Marguerite. “She wasn’t hurt. I don’t need to apologize to her.”

            “You know, if you want Marguerite to like you and treat you more like she would her daughter,” Iain reached out and stroked Zareen’s cheek. “You have to be nice to her first.” She frowned and he smiled. “You didn’t ask me to rescue her because I have a fetish for one armed Unicorns and I wasn’t having any real problems keeping Poppet off balance before she arrived. Granted, she made it a lot easier and she is sexy as fuck in those yoga pants she likes, but that is not why you wanted me to help you rescue her.”

            “She did what,” Marguerite asked, her halfway finished braid forgotten in her hands.

            Iain gathered Zareen into his arms. “Zareen wanted her mother back. They were almost one person and losing her devastated the young Unicorn that she was when it happened. She thought you’d be good for us as a foil for Poppet and she could have back what she’d lost. The problem was that she isn’t a young Unicorn anymore and she never had to try to share me with her mother. Now she’s conflicted and she also feels that you have rejected her attempts at being friendly.”

            “Yes, she’s scary,” Dominique said. “And yes, she’s one of Iain’s favorites and in ways that you’re not. But you’re one of Iain’s favorites too. In part it’s because you’re the spitting image of the one pokegirl he lusted after who managed to resist him and then escape his clutches forever, but he definitely values you for you and not for being a clone of Poppet.”

            “I think you’re oversharing.” Iain said flatly.

            “She’s not stupid and she’s a fucking telepath, Iain. Not everyone can keep telepaths out of their heads as easily as you can and it doesn’t matter since Marguerite and you are delta bonded on top of everything else. It’s one of the few weaknesses of her line.” She smirked. “Well, that and the overwhelming arrogance, the excessive pride and the utter devotion to someone as silly as you.”

            Marguerite got off the rock, came over to Iain and knelt in front of him. “Zareen,” she said quietly, “is this true? Did you get Iain to bring me into the family because you wanted your mother back?”

            Zareen’s eyes met hers and she nodded slightly. “I did think you would help stop Poppet from joining us. She wanted to become one of us; she just wasn’t ready to admit it to herself. I know you’re not my mother and it was a stupid idea.”

            “Why would Poppet decide she wanted to become a Grey,” Marguerite asked.

            “Kasumi was recruiting her by pointing out that Iain would never let Ninhursag treat her the way that Shikarou let Branwyn treat her. Branwyn was her daughter and she disliked her mother’s influence over her husband almost as much as you and Poppet hated each other.” Zareen’s golden eyes turned to Iain. “She would have owned you and Sofia and I didn’t think that was good for you or the harem. Sofia said she wished we had another Unicorn to distract you but that Ryan wasn’t working as one and I started thinking about solutions. I asked Theodora to help and she reminded me that Marguerite was probably still around and looked for her.”

            “You mean you thought Poppet’s influence would have been bad for your time with Iain,” Dominique said. “I doubt you considered the rest of us just to be noble.”

            “Nothing will ever come between Iain and me,” Zareen said simply. “This is an always truth. I think of the harem after me and Poppet’s influence on Iain would have been bad for us. She would have sought to become maharani, not because she could do a better job for the harem or Iain or the clan than Ninhursag, but simply because she craved power and she wasn’t the maharani.”

            “I don’t think Poppet would have owned me,” Iain protested.

            “You hush,” Marguerite said to him. She put her hand on Zareen’s shoulder. “I am deeply indebted to you for bringing me to Iain.” She smiled. “It’s what a good daughter would have done for her mother, especially since it means you have to share him with me. Thank you.”

            “Welcome,” Zareen said. She gently pushed away from Iain. “Want to go for a run?”

            Marguerite looked puzzled and Iain cleared his throat gently to get her attention. “She’s trying to show she likes you. Zareen enjoys running tremendously and thinks everyone else does too. She only runs with a very select group of people, which until now did not include you. It’s her version of an offered olive branch.” He looked at Zareen. “You will be back in less than twenty minutes. I don’t care that it isn’t a very long run.”

            “Not even warmed up,” Zareen grumbled. “Will do.” She rose, stepped away from Iain and shifted to her centaur form. “Marguerite?”

            Please go with her, Iain said to Marguerite across their bond.

            She smiled as she stood. I happen to love running. I just haven’t had time for it, what with everything I’ve been doing. Will you run with me later?

            I’d be honored to.

            Marguerite shifted to her centaur form and stretched, smiling as she watched Iain watching her. “Lead the way, Zareen.” The Nightmare blurred forward and she instantly gave chase.

            Dominique went to where their clothes were hanging and tossed Iain his before she started getting dressed. “We are not going to be wearing the same clothes we had on when we get back. It’s going to make Morticia wonder what happened.”

            Iain nodded as he pulled on his pants. “Let her. If necessary I’ll decide how much I want to tell her but she already knows I can travel across dimensions. Is Wednesday still at home?”

            “No, she returned to university when the weekend ended. Marguerite recommended that she keep to a normal schedule, which has her coming home every weekend. It’s Tuesday and she’ll probably be back early, early Saturday morning.”

            Iain nodded. “We’ll make it work.” He grinned. “It’ll be fun.”


Iain Grey



Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Zareen - Nightmare

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Marguerite – Unicorn

Scheherazade – Dread Wolf

Irena – Sanctuary Goth

Lynn – Dire Wolf

Rosemary – Mistoffeles

Dianthus – Elfqueen

Candace – Nurse Joy (kami)

Bellona – Dragonqueen

Elizabeth - Vampire


Outer Clan

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Clan

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves


Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

One Hundred

Alabaster – Dragoness (white)

Onyx – Dragoness (black)

Lapis – Dragoness (blue)

Garnet – Dragoness (red)

Iolite – Dragoness (purple)

Malachite – Dragoness (green with white swirls)

Dabria (was Loviatar) – Dark Queen

Omisha (was Hel) – Demoness

Viersunuth great wyrm blue true dragoness

Talyl – drow commoner

Zarza – drow commoner

Sabrae – drow commoner

Sintree – drow commoner

Alyfaen Dinaen – drow, matron of House Dinaen

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

Selsharra of Evermeet



Mother                        Children



                                    Myrna (Age 4)



                                    Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)

                                    Meara: Duelist

                                    Regan: Duelist


                                    Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)

                                    Seraphina: Megami Sama

                                    Miram: Angel (Age 5)



                                    Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)

                                    Kim:  Nightmare

                                    Xanthe: Nightmare

                                    Epona: Nightmare

                                    Philippa: Nightmare

                                    Nott: Nightmare

                                    Nyx: Nightmare



                                    Anna: Ria

                                    Esmerelda: Ria


Monica Chambers

                                    James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)