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Loose Threads

One Hundred Twenty Nine


            Theodora appeared next to Iain. “There is a priority call from Ambassador Yamamoto to Lucifer. She has declined to take it, with the excuse that she is busy in a military exercise. She is currently training with April. I offered to record a message, but Yamamoto insists on speaking to someone live and you are next on the routing list for him.”

            Iain leaned back in his chair. He was reading Ranger progress reports on various cases and, while important, it wasn’t really exciting. As far as he and the Nipponese ambassador went, they weren’t friends, but Yamamoto had been out to the ranch a couple of times and he hadn’t struck Iain as a man who invented emergencies for things that were actually routine in nature. “Put him on.”

            Theodora smiled. “Thank you.”

            She vanished as Ambassador Yamamoto’s hologram appeared in front of him. “Mr. Yamamoto, good afternoon. I’m afraid Lucifer isn’t available, but I am. Is there something wrong?”

            Yamamoto smiled. “I wanted to give my apologies in person, Mr. Grey, for something this important. I’m sorry, but something that is unavoidable has come up and I will not be available to accept your invitation to go with you to Glasgow to witness your investiture as the representative of the Tenno’s government. I truly wish I could be there, but this issue is unavoidable.”

            Iain nodded. “Thank you for informing us as quickly as you could. Will someone else be taking your place?”

            Yamamoto shook his head. “No, Mr. Grey. I have been asked to request a copy of the ceremony, however, but Lucifer had already said that one would be available within an hour of the ceremony.”

            “Then it will be, Mr. Yamamoto. I’ll double check and make sure you get sent a copy of it.”

            “Thank you, Mr. Grey. I wish you and yours a good day and great fortune.”

            “And I wish the same to you, Mr. Yamamoto.” The call ended and Iain reached out through his delta bond to Lucifer. Mr. Yamamoto just called to apologize for not being able to go to the investiture. He wants a copy of the recording instead.

            Lucifer blinked and lowered her rifle. “Pause exercise! April!” Around her, the members of the Sisterhood assault team stopped moving.

            The Duelist appeared. “And you were doing so well. What is it?”

            “I need to be excused to go talk to Iain, immediately. It’s an emergency.” She reached out with her twee. I have done something behind his back that he has discovered.

            April started to say something and then shook her head. “Lucifer is a casualty,” she announced loudly. “Resume exercise in fifteen seconds.” She looked at Lucifer. “Go. You will explain what’s going on later.”

            “I will.” She vanished.

            Lucifer exited outside the door to Iain’s Ranger office and took a second to compose herself before knocking. There was silence for several seconds before she heard Iain’s voice. “Come in.” She opened the door and went in.

            Iain saw her, got up and moved to the couch. She stopped in front of it. “May I join you?”           

            Iain smiled at her and patted the cushion next to him. “Lucifer, the Iain Grey of two weeks ago might have been upset at you for whatever is going on.”

            She sat down and curled up against him. “And now?”

            “Now I’m experienced enough not to react when Yamamoto gave me information about something that I didn’t know anything about and am pretty sure wasn’t negotiated out during the five days I was gone. You’ll let me know what’s going on in good time and, at that point, I’ll decide if I’m going to be involved or not.”

            Lucifer sighed. “Before she was killed, Queen Anne was planning to use us in the war against Blue.”

            “I thought she already was.”

            “She was using our resources. She intended to directly involve us as much as she could since I control the Sisterhood and you the clan. The title that Zara hinted we’d get was intended to do that.”

            “And then Anne was murdered,” Iain supplied.

            “Yes, and Zara became queen. In her own way, she’s as ruthless as you or I can be. She wants to make good on her mother’s plan and give us the county of Cornwall. I’d be the countess and you the earl.”

            Iain frowned. “Cornwall is part of a duchy and is traditionally given to the first born son as his income and inheritance, whether he’s the heir or not.”

            “That was the tradition,” Lucifer said. “But England needs the tin, lead and copper mines in Cornwall back in operation and they need them in operation yesterday. If we can do that, we also give the people of Cornwall jobs. So Zara returned Cornwall to being a county and gave it to us.”

            “Do we lose it when she has a son and someone decides that Cornwall should be a duchy again?”

            “No. That was one of the things we discussed in detail. I trust her, but we still negotiated out everything that involved the county and its possible future, that and the oaths we’d be taking since you are the Grey and you cannot be subordinate to her as queen.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “I’m surprised that wasn’t an instant deal breaker.”

            Lucifer nodded. “It wasn’t easy, but they really need those mines running.”

            “Not to mention that Cornwall is the last place that she expects to conquer since it’s on the other side of Great Britain from Scotland. Do we have to conquer it for her and open up a second front with the Blues?”

            Lucifer smiled. “You caught that even faster than I thought you would. While the bombardments have destroyed much of Blue’s military, it’s still actively resisting Zara’s forces as they try to push into Blue territory. Taking Cornwall away from the Blues would relieve a lot of pressure from her troops.”

            Iain frowned slightly. “You do realize that pressure will just turn and try to smash us flat in Cornwall. Are you offering the Sisterhood as the troops they’ll be hitting?”

            “In part, yes. Ninhursag also wants to blood her new elves and see how well the incorporation into her court’s military is going. I do not expect to have to field the entire offensive might of our clan.”

            “You can’t. You don’t even know what forces are available on Twenty Three and there hasn’t been any training done between them and our military forces here on One.”

            “You’re right, Iain,” Lucifer said apologetically. “Are they well trained?”

            “I believe they are, but I’m not April or you.” Iain draped an arm around Lucifer’s waist. “How many people live in Cornwall?”

            “According to the survey that Theodora did at my request, there are over thirty thousand people living in the county. There was a Blue garrison near the town of Pool and they were importing miners from all over Cornwall and Devon to try and reopen the copper mines there. And if we could get some iron mines into production, that would be appreciated as well.”

            “I think that right now it would be easier to take the iron from the ruins of buildings, vehicles and whatnot there and process it into ingots,” Iain suggested. “It gets rid of nesting places for ferals and it cleans up the view from wherever we build a home. We can still employ Cornish to work for us in the mines. Will they be clan?”

            Lucifer shook her head. “They will not. The British do not want us stealing their citizens.”

            “And if some of them seek to become clan and we think they’re acceptable?”

            “Then they can become clan,” Lucifer said firmly. She turned to face him. “Will you help me? I truly do not think I can do this without your aid.”

            “Do you want to be a countess that much?”

            She gave him an apologetic smile. “That is only a part of what I want, but, yes, I do want it. What is important to me is that this is an opportunity to continue to influence the British government and the local people in their treatment of pokegirls. And it’s an opportunity to make sure that the Blue government has nothing to do with the formation of the new British government when they are finally defeated.” Her eyes hardened. “They helped murder my Eve and so many others of my family. I will see the leagues swept into the dustbin of history for what they have done to us. Those few league officials that survive what has been done to them I want to see punished for their arrogance and deceit. I do not want them pretending to be reformed and joining the British where they can sway others with their cruelty and greed.”

            Iain lifted her into his lap. “I’ll help you, my love. I would, however, appreciate you not keeping this kind of thing a secret from me.”

            She nodded slowly. “You are not upset at me, this time.”

            “That’s exactly correct. Making decisions about my responsibilities without involving me is not conducive to a good relationship between us. I can and will tell you no about something if I don’t feel it’s in my best interests to cooperate. Is there anything else I might need to know about?”

            Lucifer shook her head. “No, there is not.”

            “Good. Now tomorrow at thirteen hundred you, me and Ninhursag will meet here. Apparently we have an invasion to plan.”

            Lucifer hesitated. “I have training tomorrow with April at that time.”

            “Not anymore you don’t.” She looked surprised and he smiled. “I’ve told April that your training has been cancelled and so has Ninhursag’s training with her court. I had some free time at that time tomorrow and now none of us do.”

            “Iain, isn’t this a little dictatorial?”

            “Technically, it’s a lot dictatorial, but you made it sound like this issue is something that’s extremely time critical. It is, isn’t it?”

            She nodded. “It is.”

            “I wasn’t happy with the way my life was being arranged before I left, remember? Then I spent centuries where I had to learn to be the man in charge. That is one of the things that I am not giving up now that I’m back here. I am still willing to adjust my schedule for you and the other people I care about, but I am also more than willing and able to change other people’s schedules if the situation necessitates it and now, in the end, it is my decision which trumps everyone else’s. Until now, nobody was really in charge. I tried that on Twenty Three and Solnys and Quick Bite used it to walk all over me until I got tired of being told what to do by women I didn’t love and took steps to assert my real authority. I can’t give that up.”

            Lucifer gave him a warm smile. “Would it harm my position to inform you that I see this change as a positive thing? My husband has grown into the role of being the Grey and I think it’s for the very best for us and for him.” She winked. “The stronger you get, the more interesting you become to me.”

            “I don’t think it will hurt your position with me at all. Praise is always welcome, at least as long as I think I deserve it.”

            Lucifer kissed him gently and then rose. “I will praise you if I think you deserve it. If you don’t think you deserve it at that time, rest assured that you are mistaken in that belief.” He chuckled softly. “Unfortunately I must return to training, especially if I am to miss it tomorrow.”

            “I understand.” He watched her leave before returning to his work.


            Iain, please wake up.

            Iain’s eyes opened but he didn’t move for a second before sitting up in bed. Scheherazade grumbled in her sleep as her nose abruptly didn’t smell his neck. Immediately she burrowed into his pillow to seek his scent. What is it?

            Kasumi is in the initial stages of labor. She wants to go to Sado while she can.

            Iain reached out with his twee. Yuko.

            Her response was instant, but he wasn’t sure if she’d slept since he’d met her. Hai!

            Kasumi is starting labor. I’ll send someone to pick you up and bring you to the Sabine Ranch so we can go to Six while she’s still relatively comfortable. Where are you?

            I am on Sado Island. I was surveying our property there. I will return to the farm we purchased first and await transport.

            They’d decided that purchasing the farm they’d bought on Six, Kasumi’s world, would be a good idea to give Ninhursag and the others a Nippon place to grow plants and do research without having to deal with the normal government entities who tended to drop by the Nerima home regularly or argue with Kasumi about what they wanted to do. When they’d investigated, they’d been surprised to discover that less than a thousand people lived on the island after the plagues and pokegirls had wrought their destruction before, during and after the war. Ninhursag had traveled there, assessed the situation and requested they purchase that farm and many of the other farms on the island that had ended up in the hands of the Niigata Prefecture government after being abandoned. Iain had talked to Lieutenant Tokunaga at the embassy and he’d been allowed to purchase most of the island, with the understanding that they’d be getting the farms into production to sell rice and other staples to the Nippon government and aid the war effort.

            Iain smiled slightly at the realization that, except for the fact that they didn’t get a title out it, what they were doing wasn’t any different from what Lucifer had planned for Cornwall.  He supposed it could be used to help justify her actions, except for the part where she did most of the work while hiding it from him.

            It didn’t hurt the negotiations to discover that the Shanghai League had already raided Sado Island at least twice. The second time they hit the island with three times the forces that had been used during the first raid. They overran the garrison that had been placed after the first raid, murdered over half the garrison and took all of the Nippon pokegirls and weapons as prizes. The Nippon government obviously hoped that the presence of Iain and the clan would put a halt to successful Shanghai attacks on the place without having to formally place another garrison on the island.

            Iain leaned down and nipped Scheherazade on the side of the muzzle. She opened an eye. “I woke up when you and Theodora started mind talking to each other. You’re kind of loud.”

            “Later you can teach me how to be quieter. Kasumi is in labor. Please go to Sado Island and bring Yuko back here so she can go with us.”

            Scheherazade sat up. ‘This is silly, you know.”

            “Kasumi wants her children to have Japanese citizenship. It’ll help them in the long run when they go back to visit her side of the family. And, yes, it’s still a bit silly but it beats bringing everyone in the Tendo household here.” Iain rubbed his cheek against Scheherazade’s muzzle and she made a happy noise. “Please go get her. I’ll wait here and you can be my guard when you return.”

            “It’s tomorrow already and Dianthus is your guard tomorrow.” Scheherazade slid out of bed and stood, towering over him as she straightened. “I’ve sent for her. Will you wait for her?”

            “I’ll hop in the shower while I’m waiting.”

            The Dread Wolf chuckled. “Can I scent mark you again later?”

            “Of course you can and, of course, you will.”

            “I’ll bring her to the picnic area outside so she doesn’t smell all of the sex we had in here and then I’ll take her to the Danger Room to wait.” Scheherazade vanished.

            “You’ll notice she didn’t clean up first so Yuko can smell you and sex on her,” Theodora’s voice noted as Iain stepped into the bathroom. “Marking their territory is automatic for many canine pokegirls.”

            Iain turned on the shower and got into it. “Remove the word canine from that sentence and it’s far more accurate.”

            Theodora’s laugh sounded around him as he began washing. “True.”

            A voice floated in from the bedroom. “Iain?”

            “I’m in the shower, Dianthus.”

            The Elfqueen stepped into the bathroom. “Just had to verify. Are you dressing like a local during this visit?”

            Iain looked at her with a slight grin. “A local what? If it’s a local Iain Grey on a Nipponese island, yes, I am.”

            “Never mind,” Dianthus shook her head. “Theodora, is he less funny than usual because it’s so early?”

            “When is he funny?”

            A flicker of movement around Dianthus’ lips suggested she was busy suppressing a smile. “He has his moments. I’ll be in the bedroom and,” she stressed the word slightly, “dressed, while waiting for you.”

            “That’s a shame,” Iain said as she withdrew. “Theodora, have you woken up everyone else who is going?”

            “I have. Should I send a message to Mizuho?” They’d placed a couple of transparent test gates to Six near the refueling station orbiting Jupiter and Theodora was using lasers to send messages back and forth from her satellite constellation on the other side. It meant that hyperspace communication sent information to the satellite on this side of the gate, it lasered the information through the gate to the satellite sitting on the other side which then sent it out by hyperspace communication to its destination.

            It was slower than a regular communication network but far faster than the complete inability to communicate she’d had to endure before unless she sent drones back and forth. And bundling thousands of microscopic fibers carrying the laser light to both send and receive on each side of the new gates meant she could still send a lot of data in a short period of time and react to things in something much closer to real time.

            “We’ll take care of it when we arrive. I’ll just call while I’m sending someone to get them.” The shower cut off and Iain grabbed a towel as he exited. There were more modern ways to dry off much faster and more completely and there was magic, too, but towels were nice and he used what he liked.

            Once in the bedroom he quickly dressed and headed downstairs, Dianthus close behind. “Who is my second guard?”

            “Zareen will meet us on the Danger Room with Marguerite as her trainee. Zareen knows the Tendo and Saotome families may be present and will put on clothes if necessary. Ganieda will also be present to help with the island’s spirit folk issues if necessary.”

            “Who is lead on my detail?”

            “I am.” Dianthus smiled briefly. “Pandora feels that I will be less abrasive than Zareen would be if Mizuho starts issuing orders.”

            They reached the basement. “Are you going to look her in the eye and say ‘no’ or ‘fuck you’?”

            “I will not.”

            “Then Pandora is probably right.”

            “I see.” She opened the door to the Danger Room. “Does Zareen and Mizuho have a history that I need to be aware of?”

            “No, they do not. Mizuho isn’t family and Zareen keeps any history with outsiders very short. Usually energy blade short.”


            Waiting in the door room was Kasumi, Nishiko, Ganieda, Candace, Irena, Yuko, Scheherazade, Zareen and Marguerite. Zareen was wearing one of the outfits she’d worn while visiting the Addams’. Iain gave Nishiko a curious look and she responded with a quick smile. “Giselle and Ayame have gone ahead to the farm to turn on the lights and clear the area.”      

            “Then let’s join them. Scheherazade, I’d like you to come along to provide more transport and general security.” She nodded. “Thank you.”

            “She hasn’t dilated to more than three centimeters yet,” Irena said quietly.

            That meant she probably had several hours to go before her real labor started. “Thanks.” He glanced at Candace. “Both of you?”

            The Nurse Joy smiled. “Irena is attending. I am supervising while Irena learns what a good bedside manner is supposed to be like. I’m also available if there’s anything unusual since I delivered Kozakura, which suggests I’m familiar with how Kasumi’s labor works. She’s changed a lot since then but I’ll still be available to help if needed.”

            He took Kasumi’s hand. “How are you?”

            She shot Candace and Irena a look as she squeezed his hand gratefully. “I am trying very hard not to be irritated by all of the attention I am receiving, which is only going to get worse when my mother and other grandmother arrive.”

            “Well, you are worth getting excited over, you know.” He wrapped her up in his arms and she buried her face in his neck and breathed deeply, the tension draining out of her as she did. “And if you think your mother is going to irritate you, imagine what she’s going to say to me when I offer our daughter a live rabbit as her first meal before you get to nurse her.”

            Kasumi’s eyes twinkled as she lifted her head to meet his gaze. “Theodora warned me about that. Is it truly a tradition among your people?”

            “If a newborn has a good first kill, it’s a sign that she’ll be a good hunter and never go hungry.”

            “What happens if her first kill isn’t good?”

            Iain chuckled. “Then she was just unlucky. It doesn’t mean she’ll suck as a hunter or anything.”

            “That sounds perfect.” Kasumi pushed gently away from him. “My labor with Kozakura was fourteen hours, but I understand that, after the first child, labor may be substantially shorter.”

            “Sometimes that’s true and sometimes it isn’t,” Iain disagreed. “I’ve delivered a lot of babies over the years. I’ve found that it depends on the woman, her history of deliveries, her family’s history of deliveries and, sometimes on how stubborn the baby is feeling about leaving that nice comfortable swimming pool she’s currently a wee bit cramped in.”

            Candace grinned. “I’ve seen it too, with pokewomen and some pokegirls when they give birth.”

            Iain tugged Kasumi towards the door to the Sado farm. “Marguerite, point,” Zareen said. The Unicorn rushed around Iain and Kasumi and stopped at the door to the farm. She quickly checked her equipment before she stepped through.

            Iain gently pulled Kasumi through the gate into the small room where the gate door had been placed and handed her off to Giselle, who was obviously waiting for them. “While I’d like to take you around while we’re waiting, I need to call your mother and track down Yuko Tendo.”

            “I know where she is, Iain-san,” Kozakura said as she walked into the room. “Giselle called me as soon as she arrived and Nejiko brought me here immediately.” Behind her, the Phoenix nodded curtly. “Do you wish me to see if my grandmother will come here now?”

            “Good afternoon, Kozakura,” Iain replied politely. “And I think that Yuko Tendo would like to be here for the next generation of her line being born.”

            “You will not take her to the Tendo dojo?”

            “My daughter is a Grey and she will be born here,” Kasumi said. “This is my home on this world.”

            “Mizuho will expect you to come to her house,” Kozakura said. “She is a very pushy human.”

            Kasumi’s eyes flashed but Iain spoke teasingly before she could say or do anything. “Well, then we have a pretty good idea what side of the family you inherited your pushiness from, don’t we?”

            Kozakura’s ears went flat and slowly rose as she gave him a slightly embarrassed smile. “I suppose you should know, Iain-san. I am sorry for many of the things that I did during that time. One day I may even apologize to you for them.”

            “And one day you will finish the time you are supposed to spend with us learning our ways,” Iain replied. Kozakura and Nejiko both gave him almost identical surprised looks that he had to fight not to laugh at. “No, I hadn’t forgotten about that. Now got get Yuko Tendo.”

            Kozakura nodded. “Hai, Iain-san. Later, we must discuss what has changed. You are more commanding now.”   
            “I took a leadership course and you’re still here.”

            Nejiko stepped forward and took Kozakura’s hand. “Your Highness?”

            “Yes, take me to her.”

            They vanished as Iain accessed the constellation with his twee and called the Tendo residence. It rang a couple of times before he heard a click and then Nabiki’s voice. “Good afternoon, this is the Tendo Dojo.”

            “Hello Nabiki,” Iain was talking with his twee, which was using the constellation to convert it the electron flow her phone could turn into speech. “This is Iain. I hope you’re having a good day and I’d like to talk to your mother if I could.”

            There was silence for a few seconds. “She’s having tea with Aunt Nodoka and would not like to be disturbed unless it’s something important. Is there something I can help you with, Iain?”

            “You can tell her that I called and that, if she’s interested, she needs to pack a bag for stay of a few days. We’re at the Sado farm and Kasumi is going to give birth to your niece sometime in the next day or so.” He chuckled softly. “I’m sorry, but she just refuses to be any more precise than that on when the baby will arrive. I planned to have someone come by to collect your mother in an hour so she doesn’t have to book a flight here.”

            “That’s important,” Nabiki said. “Can you hold?”

            “I can and I will.”

            He heard the phone being laid down and began counting in his head. He wasn’t going to hang up, but it gave him something to do while waiting. At the hundred and thirty seven second mark, the phone was picked up and Mizuho spoke. “Iain-kami?”

            That was new. “Yes, it’s me. Sorry to disturb you but Kasumi is insistent on having your granddaughter right now. I’ve sent Kozakura to go and inform Yuko and see if she wants to be here.”

            “She will. I will be ready when your person arrives. Do you know Saotome Nodoka?”

            “I spoke to her when we reintroduced you to your family, if you remember, but other than that, I do not.”

            “She is like my sister and she is visiting me for the next week. May she come too?”

            Iain reached out to Kasumi with his twee. Your mother wants to bring Saotome Nodoka.

            She was very mothering and supportive to me and my sisters when my mother left us. I would welcome her here.

            “I’d be happy to host her as our guest.”

            He could hear the happiness in her voice. “Thank you very much, Iain-kami. Do I know the person who will be arriving here?”

            “No, you haven’t met Scheherazade yet. She was busy with some other things when we rescued you. But she’s an eight foot tall dark gray wolf with blue eyes and horns so she’ll be hard to miss. That and on her first visit she’ll have Zareen with her.”

            He heard Mizkuko’s indrawn breath of surprise. “Is she a kami like you or a pokegirl like Giselle and the others?”

            “She is a pokegirl but she’s powerful enough to defeat many of the local yokai. Can you and Nodoka be ready in an hour?”

            “We will be ready. I will leave Nabiki in charge while I am gone and Soun will stay to keep an eye on her. Men have no business where babies are being born.”

            “I’m going to be here,” Iain said amusedly.

            “You are not a man. You are a kami. That is something completely different.”

            Not far away, Scheherazade started snickering loudly. Iain shot her a look and she lolled out her tongue in a laugh. “Your transport will be there in an hour. I look forward to seeing you again.”

            “And I look forward to seeing you and Kasumi. Goodbye.” The connection went dead.

            Iain turned to Scheherazade. “Something funny over there, young lady?”

            “I heard something amusing through my delta bond with someone.” Her ears canted sideways. “And I am still older than you are, no matter how many centuries you were gone.”

            “Dead time doesn’t count.” Iain smiled serenely at her. “It’s subjective and rate of passage changes all the time.”

            The Dread Wolf stuck out her tongue at him. “Do I have to put on clothes?”

            “I’d appreciate it if you did. Otherwise you might run into Genma and he’d try or say something incredibly stupid and I’d kill him, which would make Kasumi’s aunt and her future brother in law my mortal enemies.”

            “Very well.” Instantly Scheherazade was wearing a form fitting tank top and shorts in black and silver. The top had his dragon logo on it, stretched out over her breasts.

            Iain blinked. “How?”

            “I am a Celestial, Iain. While I was dead, I learned the Celestial trick of how to summon clothing. I just don’t like wearing it if I don’t have to.”

            “And how did you happen to just conjure up the dragon logo?”

            She chuckled. “I didn’t just do anything. Ninhursag brought it back with her. She said someone named Zilvra gave it to her and that it’s the clan’s flag. She’s shown it to everyone.”


            Marguerite laughed. “Zilvra was right, wasn’t she?”

            “Whether she’s right or not, apparently she’s trying to make sure she is right,” Iain grumbled. “Dianthus, I need to borrow Zareen so she can take Scheherazade to the Tendo dojo. The Nipponese have all those stupid rules about flying pokegirls they don’t recognize. We’re not in that Nippon, but it’s a good habit to cultivate since we really do not need to run afoul of that silly rule, ever.”

            “I don’t mean to sound like a bitch,” Dianthus said, “but you agreed to have two security here because of the increased threat from yokai attacking us because Kasumi is proven to be fertile and they just might smell the baby being born.”

            Iain glanced around. “Draft Irena. She won’t be critically busy for a bit, and she’s completed April’s program of how to protect Iain in three easy steps.”

            Irena grinned. “I want to hear you call her training program for your guards that in front of April.”

            “I could, but then you wouldn’t have an Iain to protect anymore, would you?”

            Dianthus snickered. “He’s right. Scheherazade leaves in forty minutes. Candace, I want her after that for maybe an hour.”

            Candace nodded. “You can have her then. If nothing else, Iain is certified as a midwife and can assist me if needed.”

            “I’ll go boil water,” Iain announced.

            “Nobody boils water for deliveries anymore,” Candace pointed out.

            “It’s for tea.”

            Kasumi smiled. “I would like some tea.”

            “See? We do need boiled water and I’m on it.” He headed off, his guards falling in around him.


            “Her name is Mariko Grey,” Kasumi said tiredly as Irena held up the newborn where she could see it. “Now please give her to Iain so he can help her hunt.”

            Iain gently took the child. “I’ll be right back.”

            “Where are you going with my granddaughter,” Mizuho asked. “Let me have her.”

            “There’s a tradition I have to complete. You can watch, but if you try to interfere, you will be prevented from getting involved.”

            Yuko Grey grinned at her Tendo counterpart. “Come, Yuko. I know what he will do and you want to witness how powerful our line becomes in this generation.”

            Iain headed outside, followed by both Yukos, Mizuho, Kozakura, Nejiko, Nodoka, Giselle, Dianthus, Marguerite and Zareen. He placed Mariko down on the grass and touched her on the forehead before walking over to a small box placed on a low table. Mizuho gasped when her granddaughter shifted into a serpentine form and twisted around to stand on her feet. Mariko had become a Japanese dragon and was now about four feet long and slender, covered with green and black scales. Iain pulled the rabbit from the box and tossed it near his daughter, who immediately pounced on it. It screamed for an instant before Mariko bit through its spine and began feeding.

            “She is so beautiful,” Yuko Tendo said softly. “She is a true kami and definitely from our line.” She looked at Yuko Grey. “We will make sure she is powerful.”

            “We will,” Yuko Grey agreed.

            The small dragon finished off the rabbit and twisted around to look at Iain expectantly. “You are Mariko Grey,” he said. “I am Iain. You are my daughter and Kasumi is your mother.”

            “I do not smell her here,” Mariko said in a fluting voice. Unlike the People, Mariko’s voice came from her mouth as it moved and her vocal cords shaped the words. “Where is she?”

            “I wanted to feed you first so that you are almost full before I take you to her to nurse. That way you will not accidentally harm her in your eagerness to drink.” He pulled a small yellowfin tuna from the box and tossed it to her. “So eat up, my daughter.”

            When she was full, he picked her up. “Shift to the form you were born in.”


            “Because your lips can’t form a seal so you can nurse in this form.” She shifted. “Thank you.” He held her out the people watching. “This is Mizuho and she is your maternal grandmother. This is Yuko and this is a different Yuko. They are more like us and your spirit folk grandmothers. They will teach you when you are older. This is Kozakura and she is your sister. She is a wolf spirit and will also help teach you. Nejiko is her servant and friend. This is Nodoka, who is a very good friend of the Tendo family, which is Kasumi’s family. You are to call her Aunt Nodoka. The other women are your mothers and you will meet them later because right now they are guarding either me or your mother.”

            “Hello,” Mariko said distinctly. “I will learn about you later, but right now I want my mother.”

            “And I will take you to her.” Iain went inside, followed by everyone else. He laid the infant down in Kasumi’s arms. “Mariko’s first hunt went well. She is a Nipponese dragon in form and not a doragon like me.”

            “I saw from your perspective as well as Giselle’s, thanks to you letting me have access to your twee.” Kasumi murmured as she carefully held Mariko to her breast and helped her to latch properly. “What does that mean for her future?”

            “Nipponese dragons tended to be land bound and she may not fly in her draconic form. She may have to learn flying spells if she wants to fly or get a magic item of some kind. It also may be that if she has some of my transformational magic she can become other creatures that can fly. It’s also possible that she may not be interested in flight. And, in the end, it doesn’t matter. She is our first child, the first of at least twenty, and we will raise her to be strong, proud and free.”

            Kasumi raised an eyebrow. “Twenty? I take it there was more inflation when I wasn’t paying attention?”

            Iain winked. “I’ve been gone a long time and my memory isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it was always twenty. Maybe it was thirty.”

            Kasumi chuckled. “I may have to ask Giselle, Ayame and Nishiko to carry some of your children for me if the number keeps rising like it has.”

            Nishiko snickered. “We would, ma’am.” She shot Iain a look. “But only if you asked and it was necessary to keep you from his horrible attentions.”

            Kasumi laughed softly. “What is that saying from Hamlet? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

            “That is the one, ma’am,” Nishiko said with a smile. She gave Iain a wink.

            “If you don’t mind,” Iain interrupted gently, “I’ll take Mizuho up to the local magistrate’s office and give notification of Mariko’s birth so they can register her. Considering that I don’t look like a Japanese national and the citizenship process isn’t complete yet, they might want to send someone back with me to prove she’s actually real and you’re Japanese so she should be a Japanese citizen.”

            “I would be glad to help,” Mizuho said. She smiled disarmingly “We could tell them that you’re a kami.”

            “Yeah, no. I get enough trouble in my life that I am not going to wander around asking for extra helpings of it.” He frowned. “Speaking of trouble, Yuko.”

            Yuko Grey came to attention. “Hai!”

            “Take your twin and Ganieda and sweep the island. I know that there are only supposed to be two spirit folk, besides us, living here, but I want you to sweep it properly. Inform every spirit folk you find that Kasumi has given birth and that if they set foot on the farm without an explicit invitation for the next five years, I will grind them into paste and use them to fertilize the fields.”

            “What if they want to visit us?”

            “Then they can send a letter which asks if they can visit and then they can wait for an invitation, they can ask one of you to ask me or they can stand on the edge of the property and yell until someone comes to see what they want. Too many spirit folk and other powerful beings on this world think might makes right and the ends justify the means. They like poison, they like using insidious magic and none of it is going to happen to Mariko or anyone else, including our guests. And we all know that the Lotus of Death grows on this island. Just this once, I’m going to issue a warning similar to that which a really powerful spirit folk would issue to everyone else. Unless Mariko’s ultimate grandfather heaves himself out of the ocean or Kozakura’s ultimate grandmother decides to vacation on Sado Island, we are the strongest force here and we will be treated with respect or with fear, if that’s what it takes.” He looked into Yuko’s eyes. “Don’t make us any new enemies while you’re warning them off. We are clan and we try to be polite until we have to gut them like trout.”

            “Hai! I will be polite when I speak with them, Clan Leader.” She smiled widely, showing off rows of razor sharp teeth. “And if they are rude, I will remember them.”

            “We’ll remember them whether they are rude or not,” Ganieda corrected her. She turned to Dianthus. “Request to be released for this?”

            “Granted.” The Elfqueen looked at Iain. “Are you worried we’ll be attacked?”

            “No, I’m just making sure anyone who might think about it is warned.”

            She nodded. “I’ll request Heather and Vanessa to replace Ganieda. Marguerite can help me until they arrive.”

            Iain smiled. “That’s fine but I’m not staying here for the next six weeks. Theodora?”

            Her voice came out of the air to his left. “Yes, Iain?”

            “How’s the data flow working out?”

            “Very well. Right now I’m probably at seventy five percent of the capacity I’d have if I were physically in this system. Daya is tapping in too, but the degradation from her presence is minimal.”

            “Take over security for the farm. Do what you think is best to protect it and us.”

            “Hai, Clan Leader! I’ll put together what I need and get it gated in system in four hours. Can I have Daya help me?”

            “If it’s part of what you think is best, that’s your choice.” He turned to Mizuho. “Mr. Matsuoka is the man we’ll want to talk to. He’s the local government official who handles most of the records and he likes the fact that we usually have all the paperwork we will need when we show up and we don’t cause him any trouble, even if we’re newcomers to Sado and probably will continue to be newcomers until after Mariko is an adult and has kids of her own.” He smiled. “Of course, that’s how any small and insular community is towards strangers.”

            “It is chilly outside. I will get my coat.”

            “May I come too,” Nodoka asked. “Someday Akane will have my grandchildren and she might not have one of them at home. I would like to know how this is done in case I can help her then.”

            “You are more than welcome to come with us, Mrs. Saotome. I’ll meet the two of you outside. Scheherazade, Dianthus is in charge and you’re now part of her detail.”

            “Marguerite and Zareen will go with Iain,” Dianthus said. “Scheherazade will monitor the trip with her psychic powers.”

            The Dread Wolf nodded. “I work better as an underling anyway. I proved that before I was killed.”

            “Good. Come along, ladies.” He headed for the front door and his shoes.


            “Hello, Morgana.”

            The small silver dragoness turned her head and nodded. “Good morning, Iain. May I ride on your shoulder?”

            Iain turned and positioned himself so she could easily climb onto his shoulder from the branch she was on. “You may.”

            “Thank you.” She carefully moved onto his right shoulder and dug her claws in just enough to hold her place as he walked. “If I were to keep comparing you to Drake and your household to his, I would be doing nothing but that for weeks, but I would still like to say that I find that the amount of time you spend with the children, whether they are your blood or not, is rather remarkable.”

            “It is my rule that all of the children of my women are my children, no matter who their sire is or even if they do not have a sire at all.”

            “Most males do not share that attitude towards children that might not be theirs.”

            “I’m not most males,” Iain pointed out. “And it’s easier for me since the children aren’t segregated as they are where you come from,” Iain continued.

            “I had noticed that. Why aren’t they?”

            “If you think about it, there are two primary sources of segregation in Drake’s household. The first is the slave children are separated from the free children, whether he sired them or not, and they receive different educations. I don’t have any slaves so that can’t be an issue. Secondly, the women in his household who don’t like other women who also live in his house don’t let their children associate with the children of the women they don’t like. Not everyone here is fast friends with everyone else, but we insist that the children are not involved in the feuds the adults might be involved in. It’s not fair to them and so we refuse to let it happen.”

            “I had thought that you would keep the human children, as fragile as they are, away from the pokegirl children but you do not.”

            “Humans are going to be fragile their whole lives and they need to learn that as quickly as possible while pokegirls need to learn that they can’t play at full power with a human and not expect him to break,” Iain said quietly as he headed into the woods. “We keep the injuries down as much as we can, but they all have to learn, and the best lessons are learned early on. We do work hard to keep the broken bones and hurt feelings to as much of a minimum as we can.” He glanced at her. The dragoness’ head was up, her neck extended as high as she could and her wings were partially spread for balance as he walked. “I hope that you are enjoying being our guest.”

            “I am. I have never had my own plate and cup before, with my own food that is just mine. They even tried giving me cutlery, but it did not work well. Due to the modifications that Drake made with the minimal dragon breeds, I have somewhat opposable thumbs, but the design of my wrists is unsuited for the fine work required when using a knife and fork.”

            Iain nodded. “I am aware that minimal dragons are normally treated somewhere between people and pets by many others. I made sure that you wouldn’t have to deal with that kind of behavior here. Now, if there is anything that we’re doing or not doing that you don’t like, please let us know and we’ll see if it can be remedied.”

            Morgana turned her head to look directly at him. “I presume that does not include the fact that I want to be able to ride your shoulder whenever I wish and I cannot.”

            “You can point it out as something you don’t like. I’ll take a look at it and decide it can’t be remedied for you just yet. But, yes, you can bring it up.”

            “I suspect that if I did so, my chances of getting what I want in that would go down, not up.”

            Iain chuckled. “That is a distinct possibility.”

            “I like the fact that everyone is so open and friendly to me. I had thought that everyone would be busy worrying that they might reveal something around me that they should not.”

            “Anything that sensitive is likely to be compartmentalized and only discussed in secure areas that you don’t have access to,” Iain said.

            “There are places I cannot go?”

            “There are a lot of places guests can’t go.”

            Morgana cocked her head curiously. “I was not told of this. What happens if I accidentally go to some of these places where I am not supposed to go?”

            “They’re secured by Theodora and Daya. You won’t be able to gain access to them, and that’s only if access is around here. If you try to insist, you’ll be politely told no. If you continue trying to get into them, we may revoke your status as our guest.”

            “I did not know that such places existed here.”

            “You didn’t need to know about them.”

            She was silent for a few minutes. “That is very ingenious. Instead of giving guests a list of places they can’t go, which could only fuel their curiosity, you give them no warnings and make these places difficult to find.” She looked around suddenly. “Where are we?”

            “Ninhursag has been replacing the pine woods with what would be a normal old growth forest for this part of the world. We’re actually not that far from the Sabine House.” He pointed to the right. “It’s about a ten minute leisurely flight that way.”

            “That tells me where we are. Why are we here?”

            “I wanted to see if you could give me some information on the Bazaar. I want to do some shopping there. However, while I’m there I want to avoid the Kalan portions of it and the parts where Drake has properties.”

            Morgana turned her head to look into his eyes. “Iain, the Bazaar is on an infinite plane.”

            Iain grimaced. “I’m such a moron.” He whacked himself in the forehead gently, making Morgana dig her claws deeper into his shoulder to stay where she was. “So unless I aim specifically for those areas, it’s unlikely I’ll exit anywhere near them. And even if I do, a random gate without leaving the dimension will most likely put me far away from them.”

            “You grasp the meaning behind my words far more quickly than most inexperienced dimensional travelers would,” Morgana said. “You grasp them more quickly than some travelers who consider themselves veterans would. I begin to understand some of what Magdalene and Tanika see in you. What kind of a dragon are you?”

            “They call themselves the People.”

            Morgana chuckled softly. “That does not narrow it down. Most dragons call themselves people and others not people. May I see you in your dragon form?”

            “If you come to the children’s area tomorrow after lunch, I’ve got child duty then and they will probably want to play chase the dragon, which I do in my small form. I don’t take my full sized form on this world because too many people might be watching that have no business seeing the perfection that is me and I don’t want to arouse their interest.”

            Morgana laughed. “Now you sound like a drake.”

            “Except for the very sarcastic tone.”

            Her laughter subsided. “That is true. I will be at the children’s area after lunch. Why do you take your small form where they might watch you?”

            “Most people, seeing a small creature being chased, and occasionally caught, by children are very likely to dismiss that creature as being harmless to anything they might be considering doing to it.”

            “These people have never attacked a colony of minimal dragons,” Morgana said.

            “Obviously not. If they had, they wouldn’t be around to watch me.”

            “How do you feel about the Allfather?”

            “I presume you’re asking about the Kalan head god and not Odin, correct?”


            “I worship Mielikki and Eilistraee. I think that only the two of us have heard of the Allfather. Nobody here, except you, worships him.”

            “I do not worship the Allfather,” Morgana corrected him sharply.

            Iain blinked at the harsh anger in her voice. “Sorry, I made an assumption and, as usual, it bit me in the ass. I apologize for my presumption.”

            She was silent for a moment. “I feel your apology is heartfelt. I accept it. Most people presume that all minimal dragons worship the Allfather because most do. However, some do not worship him and they are tired of the persecution they undergo in the Empire. Could they come here?”

            Iain started to say something and stopped. Finally, he shrugged. “I will not try to forbid them coming here. Just please understand that I know that the ones that do worship him will spy for him and his other worshippers. I would prefer not to have Kalan spies here. The Empire and the Confederation are not enemies, but they are not friends, either. How can one tell the difference between someone who is a worshipper of the Allfather and someone who is not?”

            “That is an excellent question, Iain. I will vet any minimal dragons who wish to come here to prevent what you are concerned about. I have known many of them for centuries, but I have accepted things that they tell me at their face value. That one or more of them is a spy that we were unaware of would explain certain events neatly. I will do my due diligence.”

            Iain twisted his head to regard her where she sat on his shoulder. “Are you planning to stay here long term?”

            “I am considering it. I am learning more about the Grey Clan and, so far, I have found it to be a place where I think I would like to live.”

            “You do understand that eventually guests depart.”

            “I understand that guests eventually either depart or they decide to join the community that they are visiting and then they are no longer guests.” She unfolded and refolded her wings. “In this case, I would become clan, if I were allowed to.”

            “Um, that would involve leaving Drake’s home,” Iain said slowly.

            “I understand that you know things it should be impossible for you to know. What do you know about me?”

            “Just a moment.” Iain cast a spell and opened a gate. “We’re going somewhere else to have this discussion.”

            “I can keep anyone else from observing us,” Morgana said.

            “Hold that thought.” Iain stepped through the gate. They were standing on a large rock not far from a tar pit where some American lions had been trapped while trying make a meal of a huge bison. He pulled Morgana off his shoulder and held her as he lifted off and hovered above the ground before flying west and landing in an open field with a good view of the surroundings. “There isn’t anyone here to eavesdrop on us. And to get back to what you said, there are two issues. First of all, blocking everything can send up a red flag for those who can see that sort of barrier and make them very curious about what’s going on inside that blocking field and, second, unless you’ve researched your own version of that field, Drake and Excaliber can see inside it if they want to.”

            The silver dragoness in his arms hissed angrily. “They taught me a faulty version of that spell?”

            “Yes, they did. They both have trust issues.” He held her up. “Now that we’re on the ground you can get back on my shoulder if you’d like.”

            “Thank you.” Once she was back on his right shoulder, she looked down at him. “What do you know about me?”

            “That’s a pretty complicated question to answer. There’s a lot to know.”

            Her tail lashed. “What do you know about how I came to be?”

            “Drake and the sliver dragon who later became Excaliber were as close friends as two people like they are could be. Excaliber was fascinated about truewizard magic and he spent a lot of time with Drake while they shared ideas and tried some things. One day there was an accident and Excaliber found himself stuck in the form of a two foot long silver dragon and he’d been turned into a truewizard. He and Drake spent the next thousand years or so trying to undo what had happened, but they never had any significant successes. Excaliber was lonely and Drake used his blood to craft him a mate, a silver dragoness who was also a minimal and a truewizard. That dragoness is you. Later he created versions of all of the chromatics and metallic dragons as minimal versions of the true dragons they came from and set them loose on the world. Even later he started crafting minimal versions of a bunch of animals and whatnot too.”

            “And later, the minimal dragons started worshipping the Allfather, after Drake discovered the Kalan Empire,” Morgana said. “I was made to be Excaliber’s mate. I have born him hundreds of clutches over thousands of years. But we are not mates. We have never mated. He has never seen fit to court me and I have never desired to court him. It was assumed that we were mates, when in truth we are breeding partners and his interest in me was only for offspring, which he also has with other dragonesses. I’m just the only one who has the best chance of giving him natural truewizard offspring.” Her tail thumped against his back hard enough to make him wince in pain. “We are not friends, we are not lovers and we are not in love.”

            “I wasn’t aware of that last part. So you feel you have no ties with them. What are they going to feel about them having ties with you?”

            “I am very unlikely to be missed for centuries or even millennium, Iain, if I am missed at all. Even if I am missed, it is unlikely that much of a search will be conducted for me if they do think I’m missing.”

            “And in the unlikely event that they do miss you and they do look for you and they do find you, what then?”

            “I will advise them of the truth, that I have sought and found a better place to live. If necessary, I will help defend that place from them or the Empire if they send it in their place.”

            Iain shook his head. “Are you petitioning to become clan?”

            “Not yet. I wish to know how my petition would be received before I consider it.”

            “While such a petition would come with a set of issues that would have to investigated in depth before I could render a judgment on that petition, I decided a long time ago to fairly and impartially evaluate any petition to become clan. That would include a petition from you.”

            “That is all I can ask for,” Morgana said calmly.

            “You do realize that if there’s a problem with Drake and/or Excaliber, it would only be you and me involved in it and I’m not sure just how much help I could be.”

            “I know and I would not fight them if it could result in the destruction of the clan, were I a part of it. But it might be possible to convince Magdalene and Tanika to aid us.”

            “I do not wish to try and impose on their friendship with us, even if I thought they might be willing to get involved.”

            “I was speaking of a purely business arrangement, Iain, between each of them and me. They are intelligent women and would have to seriously consider my price if I offered to remove their limiters.”

            Iain’s eye went wide and he stared at her in shock. “What limiters?”

            “Drake has placed limits on the abilities of all of his truewizard children and wives so that they can never become threats to his power and aspirations. The process takes a considerable amount of work and close contact with the subjects. He and Excaliber taught me how to do this since I spent much time alone with the children and my curiosity about them drove me to spend time with many of Drake’s wives while they are awake and asleep. No one considers me a threat of any sort and I went where I willed. I placed Magdalene’s limits on her and assisted with Tanika’s. I know how to remove them as well. Removing their limits will automatically place them in a more adversarial position with Drake as he will immediately wonder if they are planning to move against him. It will not automatically make them our allies, but if that is part of the price I exact for the knowledge I possess, they will consider my offer.”

            “Mother fucker.” Iain rubbed his chin while considering things. “Magdalene, Tanika and Kerrik are my friends. I don’t have many friends and would really like it if you didn’t play games with our relationship.”

            Morgana cocked her head. “But?”

            “But I have to weigh the value of their friendship against the potential strength you can bring to Grey. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want you or anyone else to put me in a position where I have to do that.” He frowned. “But you have and now I have to consider the positives and negatives, if you decide to join the clan and if you decide to approach them.”

            “We are alone on this world.”

            Iain nodded. “We are.”

            “Can I see you as a dragon now?”

            “You’ll have to get off of my shoulder first.”

            “I am aware that you are healing the damage my claws cause as quickly as I cause it but I do not wish to injure you more when I take off. Please put me on the ground.”

            Iain held up his right arm level with his shoulder, his forearm parallel to the ground. “You can step onto my forearm and stand upright.”

            She did so, balancing carefully. “What a novel approach.”

            Iain knelt so she could hop off his arm and onto the ground. “I don’t want to treat you like a pet.”

            “I asked you to lift me off, but I appreciate your desire to preserve my pride. This did so nicely.”

            “Pride is often the biggest part of any dragon,” Iain said with a smile.

            Morgana laughed as she took to the air. “That is true,” she said as she began circling around him. “Even minimal dragons are prideful to a fault.”

            Iain shifted to his small dragon form. “This is what you’d have seen if you’d been willing to wait until tomorrow as we’d planned.”

            Morgana flared into a landing beside him and sniffed him over. “I have never seen a dragon like you. Where are you from?”

            “I live at the Sabine Ranch most of the time.”

            Morgana chuckled. “Where does this species of dragon originate from?”

            “That’s a much better question,” Iain replied, “and I can’t say.”

            She looked him over. “You are twice my length. You call this your small form, so there is a larger form. Can I see it?”

            “Is this really necessary?”

            “No, but I am curious and I am a guest,” she said hopefully. “I want to see your larger form and my wants are supposed to be important if it isn’t too much trouble. Are you going to tell me that it’s too much trouble to become a larger dragon?”

            Iain glanced at her. “I am aware that you’re trying to manipulate me, just so you know.” He rose onto his feet and shifted to his full sized form.

            Morgana squealed in shock when she found herself under Iain’s chest and launched herself into the air and flew frantically to his right to keep from being squashed if he dropped onto his stomach. For an instant, he considered swatting her from the air with his wing. He finally decided against it as she climbed and circled back to land on his right shoulder. Her claws scrabbled on his scales as she tried to find a grip before she slid off. “That was not nice!”

            “I gave you want you wanted, I just did it how I wanted. You were never in any danger from me. This is my full sized adult form. You still won’t recognize the species since we’re kind of rare.”

            “And you cannot say where your people come from?”

            “I wasn’t born there and I’ve haven’t been there.” His head twisted around to look at her on his shoulder. “Anything else?”

            Her head canted curiously. “Your mouth is not moving.”

            “I modulate sound underneath my jaw to speak. I do have vocal cords in this form, but this is what’s natural to me.” He shrugged and she scrabbled again to keep from sliding off him as his body moved beneath her. “Oops.”

            “Are you fertile with other races?”

            “I have children, so yes.”

            “Are these children from races other than yours?”

            “I have never bred with a dragoness of the People. I do have a silver dragoness mate and she has had four children with me. Now get off of me so I can shift back to human.” Morgana dropped to the ground and Iain shifted to his human form. “I need to get back. Do you want back on my shoulder?”

            “Yes, please.” Iain knelt and offered her his forearm again. She stepped onto it and he lifted her so she could get on his shoulder and turn around. “Thank you.”

            “You’re welcome.” He opened a gate. “I would prefer that what you have learned today would remain private between us.”

            “Informing anyone that you are a species of dragon that I do not recognize would draw Drake’s attention and I desire that his attention never turns this way, Iain. Is this a secret?”

            “I don’t hide that I’m a dragon, but I don’t wander around in my full sized form either. So that part is a secret.”

            “I understand and I will keep this secret if I can.”

            He glanced at her. “Oh?”

            “You have told me that Drake and Excaliber have trust issues with me. Knowing them as I do, they may have a means of gaining access to information I possess, even if I do not wish to share it with them and possibly without my knowledge.”

            “That would be something they might do,” Iain said thoughtfully. “But short of erasing your memories of the last few minutes, there isn’t much I can do to protect you.”

            “I don’t normally talk to them and they only seek me out for specific reasons, so when I return to examine the minimal dragons who would want to move here, I will not be bothered by them.”

            “Be careful. Any spies that you would be concerned about might report unusual behavior on your part to them.”

            Morgana turned her head to look at him. “Are you concerned about your safety or mine?”

            “Both, but I have been aware of Drake’s existence for a long time and I’ve put some things into place to try and keep his attention from being aimed at us. So, mostly, I’m concerned about your safety.” He stepped through the gate and it closed behind him. “Now, because I went on a trip using a gate and it wasn’t to one of the approved universes, I have to go prove I haven’t been altered or possessed. I’m afraid it’s to one of those restricted places and you can’t go with me.”

            “I do not have to go through this protocol?”

            “You’re a guest, so no.”

            “I want to go through the protocol too. I am considering becoming clan, remember? I wish to experience what clan experiences to help me with my decision.”

            The Danger Room is not a secret, Theodora said into Iain’s mind. In the end, it is designed to be sacrificed to save the clan. I think she should be allowed to see it.

            What is this really about?

            You have already uploaded your memories, Iain. You like her enough to show her your dragon forms when she asked. She is powerful and would make a good addition to the clan.

            “All right, you can come with me and go through the protocols that you can.” He’d set the gate to exit not far from the Barton house and headed inside and downstairs to the door. He opened it and stepped into the door room on the Danger Room.

            Morgana’s claws dug into his shoulder. “Where are we?”

            “We are on a space station in the solar system that’s called the Danger Room. This is where we go for processing when we’ve been through a gate to a universe that Daya hasn’t approved for unrestricted travel. It’s also where I can come to train in my dragon form without worrying about being watched by unfriendly eyes.” He stepped into the medical room. “These are medics, which are automated healing and treatment machines which use nanotechnology to operate. We are each going to get into one of them and be examined. I will be examined for changes in my body compared to the records that Theodora has of me and you will be examined to create a baseline record that will be used in the future when you come here or are severely injured and need treated. Please get off of my shoulder now. I have to get undressed. The examination is thorough and it will disassemble any foreign material it encounters, including clothing and jewelry.”

            Morgana hopped off his shoulder onto a nearby medic. “What does this exam do?”

            Iain began stripping. “It’s a search for controlling devices, be they magical or technological in nature. It will find anything that’s foreign, including teeth or bones that have been changed out or an extra organ or piece of organ that’s been implanted to control you.”

            “But it will not find a control spell?”

            “No, that test is after this one.” Two of the medics opened. “You just lay down and relax. The medic will close over you and it will put you to sleep while it examines you, which takes about thirty minutes. Then it’ll open and let you wake up, where you find me grumbling about how little fun it is in there.”

            Morgana was watching him as he put his clothes on top of his medic. “You have very ornate tattoos. They do not look like regular tattoos.”

            Iain gave her an amused look. “They are nothing you need to learn anything else about right now and I’m not going to tell you anything about them. You may not learn anything else about them later, either. That all depends.”

            “What does it depend on?”

            “Whether I decide you need to be told about it or not.”

            “You’re cruel.”

            Iain chuckled. “Sometimes I am. Now, if you intend to experience everything, you need to get into the medic.”

            “Can we share one?”

            “No, it’s very likely that one of us would be determined to be foreign material and dissolved.”

            Morgana got into the closest open medic. “I have seen equipment like this in the Empire, but it is not for the likes of us to use. They say we’re not compatible with it.”

            “They’re either lying or,” Iain paused. “No, there are draconic races in the Empire. They have to be lying. Now just remember I’ll be next to you the whole time and relax.” He laid down in his medic. “Can Theodora fix any broken bones or whatnot she finds?”

            “I do not have any broken bones, but yes.” The medic slid closed over her.

            Theodora appeared. “She likes you.”

            “She’s certainly clingy enough. Can we share a medic? Lady’s blood.”

            “I think it’s cute.”

            “Theodora, you think weird things are cute.” The medic slid closed.

            A half hour later Iain’s medic unsealed and opened. He sat up. “Find anything new?”

            Theodora appeared again. “You friend talks like she’s fey. She has no broken bones because they’d all healed, some of them badly. I’ve repaired all of that.”

            “I meant me.”

            “You? No, you’re still you.”

            Iain got up. “What did you find with her?”

            “I ran the sample that you gave me of Arithallos, who is a silver dragoness. Morgana is a silver dragoness, but there are some significant differences between them.”

            “Morgana is a genetic construct made by a truewizard who didn’t understand genetic engineering very well. He thinks everything he does can improve on whatever the original creature is. She looks like a tiny silver dragoness and shares some of the genetics of silver dragons, but she isn’t related to true dragons,” Iain said quietly. “All of the minimal dragons will be like that.”

            “Will I get more to examine? I’d like that very much.”

            “She seems to think you will. Wake her up.” Morgana’s medic unsealed. The dragoness lay still for several seconds before stretching and sitting up. Iain grinned. “This is never a lot of fun, but it needs to be done. How do you feel?”

            Morgana twisted her head and looked down at her body. “What has changed? I feel better than I did before.”

            “You had several bones that had been healed without being properly set and Theodora used the medic to fix all of the damage.”

            “It can fix injuries that are already healed?”

            “Yes. I’m sure Imperial medics could too if they were programmed to do so. We like our clanswomen to be fully healed so they can do more with and for us.”

            “Will the dragons I bring here be allowed to use this?”

            “It’s actually mandatory so we can get a baseline on any health issues they might have. We don’t want people joining us and then dropping dead from something that we could easily have treated if we’d known about it. They’ll get everything repaired that’s easily repaired during their baseline examination, like you did. The medics are also available for use if someone is badly injured and our healers are busy elsewhere.”

            “You will spoil us.” She climbed out of the medic onto the outer shell. “Which we will enjoy and accept.”

            Iain began dressing. “We’ve only got one other thing we have to do for the return protocol and that would be the possession or control check. Did you want to go back on my shoulder?”

            “I do.” Iain offered her his arm and she rode it back onto his shoulder. “Thank you.”

            “You are very welcome.” He headed into the next room where the apparatus that Dominique had built waited for them. “All we do is grasp the handle for a five count. It checks for methods of foreign control, including control magic, technology and possession.” He frowned for a moment. “You won’t be able to reach it from the ground so I’ll just kneel and you can reach it while on my arm. Theodora?”

            She appeared. “Yes?”

            “Make a small rolling ladder with a platform that a dragon the size of Morgana could use to get to the handle so they can move it into place and then put it somewhere out of the way when they don’t need it. I realize that you could make more efficient ways of lifting them into the air, but these dragons won’t be used to technology and they come with various breath weapons that might get used if they’re startled badly enough. Rolling ladders are easy to understand and having one will let the dragons use it without having to ask anyone for help.”

            “I’ll take care of it.” She vanished.

            “Thank you.” Iain gripped the handle for several seconds before letting it go and holding up his forearm to Morgana. “Your turn.”

            The dragoness stepped onto his arm and he lowered it so she could reach the handle. She grabbed it and waited before letting it go. “What do we do now?”

            Iain lifted his arm so she could get back onto his shoulder. “Now we go back to Earth and we part ways. I’ve got some things I have to do and, no, you can’t come with me.”

            “Thank you for showing me your dragon form and for letting me do this.” She looked around for a second. “And thank you, Theodora, for healing me.”

            Theodora’s voice sounded from the air. “You are our guest, Morgana, and you are very welcome. I will be glad to do the same for any other dragons that you bring to us.”

            “I will remember that.”

            Iain headed for the door room and passage back to the ranch. “Anything else, Theodora?”

            “You have training with me tomorrow. Don’t be late.”

            “I won’t.”


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

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)