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One Hundred Thirty Nine
“Of course, you will want to bear Iain’s children.”
Iain’s head came up from his book to watch them as Anust stared at Ygerna. The Fomorian’s appalled stare quickly transitioned into an amused smile. “Why would I want to do that?”
Iain had introduced the two of them and then opened his book to give them a chance to talk as alone as was safely possible for two fey, while still staying close enough to play referee and intervene if necessary.
Ygerna grinned. “You have a curse of infertility. I’m sure Iain has already told you that he’ll remove it soon enough. Yes?”
Anust nodded. “Yes. While I will be grateful for his aid, we have negotiated nothing for his help. I certainly wouldn’t agree to carrying his child.”
“I am Sidhe,” Ygerna said cheerfully. “I am, or was until Iain got involved, the last Sidhe on my world.”
“What did he do?”
“He rescued my mother from death, cloned a multitude of various fey for Danu and got me pregnant. My children will carry his blood, the blood of a powerful dragon. My children will be extraordinarily powerful, even for Sidhe. Dragons are incredibly rare among the fey. I have never met one before Iain. In my life I have only known two Sidhe that carried the blood of a dragon. One was High King before he was betrayed and killed in a power struggle. The other was the one who killed him. She, the dead king’s sister, became High Queen in his place and ruled until the Sidhe were wiped out by the Usurper. No other Sidhe could match their strength.” Her smile vanished. “As the last Fomorian, it falls upon you to decide if your race dies with you or not. If you choose not, then breeding with the most powerful fey around only makes sense. And he is not Sidhe.”
Iain realized that Anust was looking at him. The speculative gleam in her eye was very familiar and he decided to head it off. “I can introduce you to other drakes.”
“Will they be as powerful as you are,” she asked.
Iain gritted his teeth. “I have never encountered a drake more powerful than I am. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist; it’s just means we haven’t met.”
Anust smiled thinly. “It also doesn’t mean he does exist or that you will meet him soon. Someone must be the most powerful of all.”
Iain carefully didn’t look at Ygerna. Is this really necessary?
She gave him a triumphant glance. I am ensuring that her children are related to mine and, more importantly, will be brought up as clan. That will prevent another war between us because you would not allow the conditions that Anust says started the first war between Sidhe and Fomorian to happen. And our children will not be Sidhe or Fomorian. They will be Grey.
Iain closed his book and sat up straight. “That’s true enough, although I do know of many beings who are more powerful than I am. I can’t really say that any of them would be what you might want in someone to have kids with.” His head came around to look north when he felt the pulse of energy.
“You feel the gate,” Anust said.
“I do,” Iain got up, leaving the paperback behind. “Zareen.” She stepped forward and shifted to her equine form. “Excuse me, ladies.” He swung up onto the Nightmare’s back and she raced off, following the coordinates he’d sent her by twee.
Drones are in place if needed, Theodora said. The heavy assault remotes are ready for deployment and your twee has the current codes to order them to engage if I cannot see an attacker this time too.
Got it. Something occurred to him. Let’s not end up like the Americans were and always prepared to fight the last war. Use my memories, the Wolf database and any other databases you’ve compiled. Use everything that you’ve got for this. I want you and Daya to start planning for beings and situations that we haven’t run across yet.
Theodora’s tone was amused and serious at the same time. You do realize that our preparations may begin to resemble the mad machinations of a delusional paranoid to everyone else.
I don’t care. There are unfriendly powerful beings and institutions and some of them will be out to get us if they ever get here or even learn of our existence.
Then we are not being paranoid, Daya interjected. Mission parameters updated. I will begin expanding our production capabilities in this system. I would like permission to build more planet killers.
I thought we’d exhausted this system’s resources for them, Iain replied thoughtfully.
Those resources still exist in several of the other systems that we maintain more than a cursory presence in, due to familial and other obligations.
Iain chuckled. Didn’t I tell you to do what you needed to do? Are you asking for permission before beginning harvesting or asking for permission after the harvesting has begun?
Daya laughed in his head. The second, of course. Technically I must have this conversation with you this since deployment is only allowed by you. More importantly to this discussion, you must first know about their existence before you can plan to use them.
Your reasoning is valid and accepted. Build every planet killer you can. In the meantime, I’ll have a talk with Dominique about doors and the theoretical limits on them. Theodora has already found a place where we may be able to mine the resources we need from a neutron star. If Dominique can open a door to there, that would be awesome. If not, we can open a gate to move a facility there instead and save us a few years of waiting. Zareen pulled up to a trot and Iain immediately noticed Morgana sitting patiently on the ground where she’d arrived. Gotta go.
Be careful. Morgana and Anust are both still unknown quantities, even if you had me turn Anust’s mind inside out.
Zareen slowed to a halt and Iain slid from her back. “Thank you.”
She nodded. “Welcome. Call if you need a ride home.”
“I will.” Iain watched the Nightmare leave before he turned back to Morgana and knelt, offering her his right forearm. “Welcome back.”
The minimal dragoness climbed carefully onto his arm. “Thank you.” He lifted his arm level to his shoulder and she stepped onto his shoulder and turned around before carefully digging in her claws. “I hope you are doing well.”
“I am, for the most part. Are you?”
She nodded from her perch. “I am. My trip was fruitful. I discovered three spies and four prospective spies among the ones I thought wanted to escape and they did not come with us.”
“I don’t see anyone but you.”
“The others went into deep slumber and I stored them in a transport gem.”
Iain knew of transport gems from his notes and his D&D campaign. They were similar to Dikon but were single use magical items with a storage capacity of about a thousand pounds. He’d added them to his homebrew as a rare, moderately difficult to craft magic item to help his players clean out their targets without needing caravans of retainers. He smiled to himself as he remembered he’d introduced them by having a group of wizard thieves use them to clean out a redoubt the players had stocked with the vast majority of their loot when he’d reset a Monty Haul campaign to something more reasonable, with his player’s permission. Even knowing it was going to happen, they’d been outraged at the ease with which their stronghold had been penetrated. Discovering that the reason for this was that that the thieves had been led by a hireling that they’d dismissed from their service a few game years before and then never changed any of their security protocols or physical defenses had been both humbling and infuriating.
“I don’t see it.”
Morgana nodded from her perch. “I swallowed it. It’s in my esophagus just before my stomach so I don’t accidentally digest it. I can regurgitate it when I’m ready to open it.”
He chuckled. “I never thought about that angle. How many dragons did you bring?”
“There are a hundred and fourteen of them.”
Iain turned his head to look at her on his shoulder. “That’s a lot more than I expected. Where did you find so many who do not worship the Allfather?”
“There are hundreds of thousands of minimal dragons across the world in colonies of various sizes. Those of us who do not worship the Allfather are not well received by those who do. As a result, we have formed our own colonies where we can try to live in peace. I recruited mainly from those colonies. I explained to them about going to medical and everyone agreed to allow this to happen, even my sister.”
Iain frowned. “You don’t have a sister.”
Morgana’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “While technically that is correct, I think of Alabaster as my sister and I was hoping you could help her.”
Iain’s eyes went wide. “Alabaster? I only know of one minimal with that name and I can’t ever see her coming here.”
“There is only one minimal dragoness named Alabaster,” Morgana said calmly. “Because of her circumstances, her name is considered to be unlucky and is not given to any others.”
Iain realized that he was gaping at Morgana and pulled his mouth closed. “She is one of the initial group of minimal dragons. Her loyalty to Drake is supposed to be absolute.”
“I predate them and my loyalty to Drake and Excaliber are supposed to absolute as well,” Morgana said coolly. “Do you believe I am here on my own and not acting as an agent for Drake?”
Iain knew that dangerous edge in her voice well. It sounded like the one in Kasumi’s voice when she was upset. “I do. As for Alabaster, if you vouch for her, I will still have to speak to her and hear the truth from her. I will do that with each person you have brought here claiming they wish to become clan.”
“I am pleased to hear how wise you are,” Morgana’s voice trailed off as she turned to look towards the Sabine House, miles away. “I sense a new truewizard. It is unfamiliar to me. What has happened while I was away?”
“You sense Anust. She’s a Fomorian and came here to continue her quest of exterminating all of the Sidhe she finds. She was here to kill Ygerna and Gormlaith. I detected her presence and protested her plan of killing a woman I love and our unborn children. It got a mite physical. In the end, I defeated her and she swore allegiance to me. Now she has in the process of becoming outer clan.”
“Fey are notably untrustworthy,” Morgana said scornfully. “This is a mistake.”
“So I can’t trust you?”
“Yes, you can trust me.” Morgana sounded offended and more than a little angry.
Iain smiled thinly at her. “Dragons are considered to be fey on many worlds, including this one.” He shrugged, making her claws dig deeper into his shoulder. “And it doesn’t matter. Anust gave me a binding oath and was not under duress when she did. I triple checked that oath with Theodora and Daya before giving it to her and, as repulsive as I find them, I had a truth spell up when she gave me her oath.”
“You find truth spells to be repulsive?”
Iain nodded. “While they have their place in the universe, they show you don’t trust people to be honest. Most people, if given that trust, will not betray it. And the people that would lie to you aren’t going to stop lying to you because of a truth spell. Oh, they’ll do their best not to lie to you while the spell is operating, but if you can’t trust someone, you can’t trust them for anything or at any time. And for the trustworthy, finding out you’re using a truth spell on them is an insult, and a very serious insult indeed. At that point, the only thing worse than a spell which detects the truth is one that compels it.”
“I used truth spells while looking for the spies among the dragons coming with me,” Morgana said quietly.
“Like I said, truth spells have their place in the universe. When you know you have spies, you have to find them. Spies, after all, make a living by lying to the people they are deceiving. Afterwards, you explain to everyone else why you were being insulting and you apologize to them for it, but the honest ones will understand and, eventually, forgive you for the insult.”
“You have an interesting way of looking at things,” Morgana said.
“I’ve been told that before. I listen to people complaining about things, since as the Grey, I can dictate policy to the rest of the clan.”
“What about those who are not clan who lie to us?”
“I’m summoning Zareen. Outlanders will be given the benefit of the doubt. However, if we are lied to or betrayed, we will never forget, even if we do eventually forgive.”
Morgana’s head cocked. “Eventually?”
“It depends on the betrayal. For example, the leagues murdered some of us with a nuclear bomb and tried to kill more of us with another one. That will never be forgiven. It will take generations, but I will see the leagues dismantled for that, among other things.”
“I would not forgive someone for that either,” Morgana said.
Zareen raced up and stopped. “I’m taking you to the house?”
“Yeah, I’m taking Morgana to the Danger Room since she’s been gone and she wants to be treated like clan until she becomes clan.”
“Please take me into your lap so I don’t harm you while you ride,” Morgana said. Iain held up his arm and she climbed onto it so he could tuck her against his chest. “Thank you.”
“Zareen, kneel.” She obediently squatted so Iain could swing onto her back with one arm. “Thank you.”
“Welcome.” She rose and accelerated to a smooth trot in one move. “Will you want me to go with you?”
“We’ll be in medical and not up on the plains level. I don’t have any plans to go to the plains level so it’s going to be kind of boring for you. Do you want to be there? Theodora and Daya have my security there. You won’t have much to do.”
She glanced over her shoulder at him. “I can watch the children instead, if you don’t mind.” She grimaced. “I’m still getting approved to not need a minder while I watch someone else’s children and sometimes it’s hard to find time to work on my apprenticeship.”
“Drop us off at the house, then. Nothing against Morgana, but I’d rather be doing that too.”
“It sounds like it would be more fun than going to medical,” Morgana observed amusedly. “But this must be done for me as well as the ones I bring to the clan.”
Zareen stopped at the door to the Sabine House and Iain slid to the ground. “Thank you.”
She shifted to her bipedal form. “You’re welcome.” She vanished an instant later.
“It is interesting,” Morgana noted as Iain headed inside. “Drake’s household is much older than yours is but they do not use teleport as routinely as your people do.”
“The situation is very different here,” Iain replied. “We are much busier than his household is. Our properties and activities areas are more spread out too. Compared to us, his household lives shoulder to shoulder.” He stepped through the door and into the doorway vestibule on the Danger Room. “Theodora, Morgana says she has a hundred and fourteen dragons who need processed. Can we process them all at once?”
“You can if you take them to the primary medical bay,” Theodora replied. “It’s set up for battlefield casualties numbering in the low hundreds. Follow the red light.”
“I hope we never need it for that,” Iain said.
“Me too,” Theodora said as a globe led Iain down a passageway. “But we plan for the worst while hoping and working as hard as we can so as to never need those plans.”
The light led Iain to a transport station and he settled into closest transport. As it left the station, Iain lifted Morgana up so she could watch as they zipped through a transport tube. “What about pokegirls?”
“Primary medical is set up with healing system that can perform full heals on a hundred pokeballs at a time, either individually or in groups. With the current generation of healing machines, a full healing cycle is thirty seven seconds. Theoretically, I could process eight thousand pokeballs an hour, allowing forty five seconds per cycle for manual loading and unloading. Fully automatic operation could process ninety seven hundred patients an hour.” The transport landed and opened as the red light reappeared. “This will lead you to an elevator.”
Iain was consulting his mental map of the Danger Room. “Up six levels and over three.” He headed down the passage at a trot.
“Do you think I should move primary medical closer to the vestibule? Medical at the vestibule is set up to process up to twenty people simultaneously.”
“How about instead Dominique puts a doorway straight from the vestibule to medical?”
Theodora’s voice sounded surprised. “Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll speak to her about it today when she’s free.”
“Schedule time for her to do it,” Iain said. “And tell April I approved the project. This will be a good test run for the station we’ll be putting in orbit when we conquer Nippon, since it is likely to get a lot of use, if nothing else for our human auxiliaries and enemies when we chew them up and then heal them to show our beneficence. Primary medical can be used while hospital shuttles are still in transit.”
“Warning! Morgana is not clan and is not cleared for this discussion,” Theodora said instantly.
“Sorry,” Iain said. “Tell April to set me an appropriate punishment for the security violation.”
“Under traditional clan law, that would be lashes.”
Iain grimaced. “Then lashes it is. It’ll suck, I’ll survive it and it’ll set the proper example for everyone else.”
“Yes, Iain. I’ll take care of setting it up.”
“What is this about Nippon,” Morgana asked from his arms.
“Young lady, you are not cleared for that discussion. I shouldn’t have said anything,” Iain entered the medical bay. Rows of medics filled the room. “And I won’t say anything else since you have no need to know.” He carefully deposited her on the top of the closest one. “Can you help the others through this?”
“I can, with Theodora’s help. They want to meet you, but that can be afterward. What will you be doing while I am doing this?”
“I thought I could spend some time with Alabaster.”
Morgana’s head came up and her voice was filled with excitement. “You’ll help her?”
“She wants our help. You brought her here to get help. I’ll have to determine exactly why she’s blind before we can make any decisions on how to help her.”
“How did you know why she is here?”
“You told me you hoped I could help her. The only thing that she might need help with is that she was hatched blind and has always been that way.”
Morgana nodded once. “And you know things that it is impossible for you know. I will not forget that again.” She suddenly arched her back and retched, coughing up a flawless saffron diamond the size of a chicken egg.
Iain whistled softly. “I’d wondered what quality of diamond would be required to carry living things.”
“One that is very rare and valuable, of course,” Morgana said. She looked the gem over. “It’s a pity it has to be destroyed. I don’t suppose you have a hammer, do you?”
Iain drew his pistol and reversed it to hold it by the muzzle. The weapon wouldn’t fire unless his finger was on the firing stud. “It only has to be cracked?”
A cabinet on the wall slid open. “There’s surgical tape and bonding cement in here,” Theodora said. “It will hold the gem in place while you hit it.” She chuckled. “I never thought I’d need to put a smithy in medical.”
“Needs must when the devil drives.” Iain carefully taped the gem down to the top of the medic, running strips in every direction until the diamond looked like it had been cocooned in place. “But stick a small hammer and anvil in here. It could be useful someday to crack open someone’s carapace for some reason.”
“I’ll put a workroom next door and fill it with low tech tools.”
Iain had made diamond dust many times for spell components and other reasons. The first step was always rough cracking the diamond before beginning grinding, so he had a good idea how much force would be needed for this one.
The diamond splintered with the second blow. There was a flash of light and the top of the medic Morgana was on, the two to either side and the area around them was filled with colored spheres roughly eight inches across. There were even some around his legs and one resting on his right foot. A second look showed they were actually minimal dragons tightly curled up in rough ball shapes.
“Wake up,” Morgana called softly. Individually, but in a wave that looked almost choreographed, the dragons uncurled and stretched. “As I told you, we are in a medical facility owned by the Grey Clan. This is Iain Grey, our host and the leader of the clan.” The dragons all looked at him curiously. He smiled and nodded as Morgana continued. “All of us will enter the medics, as I explained, and be examined so that Theodora and Daya will know us and help to safeguard us and our new clan. Iain will assist Alabaster.”
Iain looked around. Seven of the minimal dragons he could see were white. “Which one of you is Alabaster?”
“I am,” said the white dragon on the medic to his right. The other dragons leaped onto the medics around where Morgana, with Theodora’s help, began instructing them on what to do.
Iain stepped over to the medic and held out his hand. “I am Iain Grey. I am holding out my hand in front of your nose so you may learn my scent.”
Alabaster leaned forward until her nose was almost against his skin and inhaled deeply. Her tongue flicked out and touched his palm. “I am Alabaster.” She leaned back. “Morgana told me that you will help me to see. Drake said that there was nothing he could do for me. You are a much younger truewizard than he is. Of course,” her tone turned thoughtful,” it is not always the oldest people who know the most.”
“I intend to determine if you can be helped to see normally,” Iain said quietly. “There are some tests I need to run first to try and determine why you are blind.”
“I am blind because I cannot see.”
Iain smiled. “While that is true, the reason why you cannot see could be one or more of several different things. It could be that your eyes are nonfunctional. It could be that the issue lies within the nerves that are supposed to transmit the images to your brain for processing. It could be that there is an issue with that part of your brain. It could also be that part of what you need in order to be able to see is completely missing. It could also be any combination of all of these. Have you ever had a clutch and, if so, were they sighted or not?”
“I have never laid. Drake was worried that my offspring would be like me and essentially useless. Because of that, no drake would mate with me and I cannot fly. It is only because of sentimentality that Drake did not have me put down. I know he considered it several times.”
Iain knew that Drake was not prone to bouts of sentimentality. “I think it was more because he thought that by doing so he would be forced to admit that something he did wasn’t perfect,” Iain suggested.
“Whatever his reasoning, while I am not happy with the life I lead, I am not ready for it to end.”
“I’m glad he didn’t kill you,” Iain said. “If he had, I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet you. You’re one of the people from the stories and notes I wrote about him and I’m glad to have met you. I will do my best to give you sight as you want, if you will allow me to try.”
“I am here because I want to see. I give you permission to do whatever is necessary towards that end with the exception of killing me. If killing me and bringing me back to life somehow turns out to be necessary to give me sight, we will discuss it, but you do not have permission to take that step unless I specifically give it.”
“Very well. May I pick you up?”
“I told you to do whatever you think is necessary,” Alabaster said sharply.
“You did indeed. You are still a dragoness, proud and equipped with sharp claws, teeth and powerful wings, not to mention a lot of magic. I think my blood needs to stay within my body and so startling you seems like a bad idea, not to mention it’s rather rude. I have a problem with others manhandling me and I try not to do to others the things that I don’t like others doing to me.”
Alabaster took a deep breath and released it. “I am sorry for snapping at you,” she said.
“If I were you, and I’d been a proud dragoness who had to live her life on everyone’s sufferance and then someone had come to me and said they knew someone who might be able to help me become more self reliant and I’d agreed to seek this person out and see if they could help me, I’d probably be excited and really scared right now. In my head, where I live pretty much alone, I’d be running through all of these scenarios of what might happen and how great things could be and, behind them all, would be that terror that nothing would change. That would probably put me in a mood and I’d hope that others would be understanding of that mood and somewhat forgiving, as long as I don’t bite anyone’s fingers off.”
Her head was pointed at him. “How is it that you understand how I am feeling?”
“You’re not the first person to have those feelings. I’ve had them. Now, I have to ask you something, and I want you to consider this question carefully before answering. Do you want me try to give you sight?”
“You make no guarantees?”
“I guarantee that, if your answer is yes, I will do my utmost to try to determine why you are blind and what can be done to give you sight. If I determine a way to give you sight, I guarantee that I will do everything reasonable to try and give you sight. I will also run your DNA and do my best to tell you if your children are likely to have the same issue. I do not guarantee success.”
“Why would I not want you to try to give me sight?”
“Some people fear change and you have never been sighted so you have never experienced it. New things can be frightening.”
“I am a dragon and I cannot hunt,” Alabaster said bitterly. “Others must hunt for me and allow me to feed from their kills. My only other option is to become an herbivore and supplement that diet with minerals that I might stumble across while I dig. That has no appeal to me. Drake says he cannot help me. I don’t believe he really tried very hard. And no one else will help me because he is our lord and master and to do so could be seen as defying him since he said that I cannot be helped. And what if they succeeded when he said something could not be done? None of us can do something better than he can. I want to be a dragoness as I am supposed to be. If you can help me, please do so. I will pay your price and become clan for this.”
“Becoming a Grey is not a price. I do not make people join us, except in one very special case that happened recently. Becoming a Grey is a reward and it is a reward that you must seek. I do not grant everyone’s request to become a Grey. You have asked me to try to help you. I did not put a price on that help. I will try to help you whether you become a Grey or stay an outlander.”
Her voice was soft. “Why do this without recompense?”
“Three reasons. First, in some way, you have been a part of my life for most of the first years of it. Second, helping people does not come naturally to me. I try to help others because it helps to stave off the darkness that exists in my soul. Some of my women want me do to things like this too. Third, my goddesses demand that I help others when I can. I am their priestess and I try to follow their dictates, as much as I can and somewhat in my own annoying way.”
Alabaster snorted. “Goddesses. Did they tell you that you were annoying?”
“I see them regularly and, yes, together and separately they have told me that I can be extraordinarily annoying. Spend enough time around me and you’ll eventually meet at least one of them.”
“Who are they?”
“Mielikki and Eilistraee.”
“You worship a drow goddess?”
“I worship a decent and wise dark elf goddess who was once part of the Seldarine and who voluntarily became a drow and went with her mother and brother in order to try and save the drow from the evil, insane, irrational and erratic behavior of the other gods of the Dark Seldarine.”
“Isn’t insanity always irrational?”
“No. Psychopaths can be disturbingly organized and appear to be rational.”
“You do realize that you are trying to apply human definitions to deities, do you not?”
Iain smiled. “I understand that the words I use cannot truly explain the depths of their depravity, yes. But elves also understand what psychopathy is and Corellon did not banish the Dark Seldarine, aside from my goddess, because they were good and decent folk to the other gods. He did it because they were evil and depraved, even as gods define it. The other reason he banished them is because he was concerned that the Spider Queen just might figure out a way to take his job away from him. To a god, their job is everything. They never take retirement well.”
Alabaster snickered loudly. “You’re weird.”
“May I pick you up?”
She stood. “You may.”
Iain carefully gathered the white dragoness into his arms. “It’s not that I’m weird,” he said as the medic she’d been on opened. “I am a sociopath. Among other things, it means that I have a unique insight that allows me to understand psychopathy better than many of the people around me really want me to. I am going to place you inside a medic. It’s going to close and you are going to be put to sleep. Please don’t fight it. While you’re asleep, you’ll be examined. Any broken bones, healed or not, will be repaired. You’ll also undergo a detailed examination to begin exploring the potential reasons as to why you don’t have sight. Your mind will also be put to sleep, so when you wake up, it’ll be as if no time has passed. I’ll be here when you wake up and, hopefully, I’ll have some positive news to give you.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“Even if I don’t, it just means we’ll be running some other tests.” Iain laid Alabaster down in the medic. “Now, your testing is going to be extensive. Because of this, when you wake up, the other dragons will already be gone because they’re not undergoing the same tests you are.”
“I understand.” Alabaster flattened herself on the bed. “I am ready.” The medic slid shut and sealed.
Iain looked around and realized that Morgana had already gotten the others into their medics. The silver was watching him from nearby sitting on a medic that was open and waiting. “You need checked too. It’s protocol.”
Morgana nodded. “I will. I wanted to watch you with Alabaster. I hope you can help her.”
“I hope I can too. You shouldn’t have told her that she had to join the clan to be helped.”
“She must have ties to here. If she returns to Drake, she could lead him back to this place.”
“And if she does, we’ll deal with it.” He smiled. “Even if it means moving to a universe far, far away. I don’t force people to become clan. I won’t let you try to force people to become clan, either. Understand?”
“I do.” She dropped down into the medic. “But, as you said, the clan needs to grow and it needs to become stronger. I was doing my part.”
“You’re not clan.”
“Yet. I have decided to formally request that you allow me to become clan.” She looked up “Theodora, I am ready.” The medic closed.
“I don’t think she is really ready,” Theodora noted as she appeared. “Still, she would be a powerful addition and you should not turn her request down because she irritated you.”
“I’m not going to. And I will try to convince Alabaster to become clan as well. I’m just not going to lie to her or anyone else while doing so. I want people to clamor to become clan. I don’t think tricking people into joining us will help others decide we’re so awesome they have to join us too.” He stretched. “How long before they start coming out?”
“It’ll be at least three hours. I thought I’d hold them until they were all ready, except for Alabaster, since it sounds like you want to deal with her alone. I can let you know when they’re ready for you to come back.”
Iain consulted his mental schedule. “Do you think it’ll be more than five hours?”
Theodora shook her head. “I don’t see why it would, but if something changes, I’ll let you know.”
“That’ll let me do my training and then plan to be back here in five hours for the decanting.” Iain nodded. “Let’s plan for that.”
“Then I’ll see you back here at fifteen hundred,” Theodora said. A red light appeared. “Follow the light to the transit platform.”
“Let’s see if I can follow the path without it.” Iain jogged for the door as the light vanished.
With a swirl of eldritch energy, the gate opened in front of them. “Fortunately,” Iain said as he checked the coordinates, “the unicorn we met first was She Sings. I swear she’s on Prozac or something. I really think that she is the most cheerful unicorn in the herd. Anyway, Jo was all ‘ooh, it’s a unicorn, can I ride it’, but then that’s how she is most of the time. While I’m glad that the abuse Carlos inflicted doesn’t seem to have changed her, Ganieda tells me it’s a front and my youngest sister is clinically depressed, mostly because she lost the baby she was carrying. Candace says we can treat that and the psychological addiction issues at the same time.”
Selsharra shook her head amusedly. “What about Rowan?”
“She was just as excited to see her first unicorn, but she is usually much more reserved and doesn’t express emotion as much as Jo does. I had to explain to them that unicorns are people and that I can’t order a unicorn to carry Jo or anyone else any more than I could order Jo to let She Sings jump on her back. However, I did introduce them to She Sings, and She Sings, being who she is, charmed them both within the first five minutes. She’ll introduce them to the rest of the herd while warning the herd about the new humans.” He gestured at the gate. “And the coordinates are verified to come out in my bedroom, so after you.”
Selsharra laughed as she headed through the gate. “Now that I’m alive, I appreciate you wanting to look at my ass. Who is your guard today?”
“Alabaster. I wanted to discuss with her the fact that her namesake was now going to be living here before she got out of the medic.”
“You named Alabaster after the white minimal dragoness?”
“I always liked some of the minimal dragons. I never expected them to come here, even after I discovered that they really did exist somewhere. When Alabaster the Dragoness turned white when I was personalizing them, that name came to mind immediately.”
“She’s one of Emerald’s research specialists,” Selsharra pointed out.
“And she said she’s happy to be my guard for a while since it’s a sign of my favor.”
Selsharra shot him a look. “I know her better than that. She would not have said that to you.” The moon elf snorted. “Even if it’s true. Pokegirls.” She frowned. “How many of the others are named after minimal dragons?”
Iain grinned. “Aurum, Skye, Emerald, Beryl and Sable.”
“All of your original undead harem except Eirian,” Selsharra mused. She turned to face him as the gate closed. “Why not her too? She is a silver. Why isn’t her name Morgana?”
“It didn’t feel right to use Morgana’s name for someone else.”
Selsharra raised an elegant eyebrow. “Are you interested in Morgana?”
“No. Yes. Fuck, I don’t know.” Iain shrugged. “And it doesn’t matter anyway. She’s not interested in me. I’m not a minimal silver drake.”
“You’re not a true dragon silver drake either. That didn’t stop Arithallos. She seems quite content to be your mate until the two of you finally die.”
“I haven’t thought about it much,” Iain admitted. “And I’m not chasing her. As far as I know, she’s only had babies with the male she was created for.”
“Is she some version of Eve?”
“I’ve read the Christian Bible. Eve was made from the blood of Adam, her mate. Morgana was made from the blood of Excaliber, her mate.”
“No. It’s not the same thing at all.” Iain’s head came around when the door to his bedroom opened and someone came in. “Hello?”
“There you are.” The gold haired sun elf shook her head. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you and decided to try here one last time before I finally gave up.”
Iain recognized her. “Hello, Vivahdri.” He gestured towards the moon elf with him. “This is Selsharra Grey, my wife.”
Vivahdri nodded to her. “Selsharra.”
Selsharra nodded back. “Vivahdri. I presume you’re here to speak with Iain.”
“I am. Could I have a few minutes alone with him?”
Selsharra looked at Iain. The clothes stay on?
Mine certainly do. Ari warned me that Vivahdri was looking for my help for some quest and she’s used sex to try and get her way with me before. The sex is good, but she’s not my primary focus.
“Of course,” Selsharra said graciously to Iain. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Apparently, most drakes can be led around by their cocks as much as most humans, elves or dwarves can. She could be useful.
Your quest comes first. She’s not my wife or mate or whatever.
Good. Selsharra winked and left the room.
Vivahdri took Iain’s hands and leaned forward to inhale his scent. “It has been too long.” She rubbed her cheeks against his and smiled at him. “I have missed you. Why haven’t we seen each other more?”
Iain chuckled. “You’ve known where I am, while I haven’t known where you are. That means that only you can answer that question. You’ve even been too busy to write regularly again.”
“Are you going to hold that against me,” she asked with a smile.
“I’m not holding anything against you,” Iain said. “You’ve always been more interested in your ambitions than you have been interested in me. That’s perfectly fine. You’re not the first ambitious woman in my life. And Arithallos told me that you were looking for me and that it somehow involved those ambitions of yours.”
Vivahdri’s eyes searched his. She had a habit of changing the color of them as the whim took her. Today, her eyes were the same brilliant gold they were when she was in her true form. “You are the only drake who has never been upset by my ambitions, even when I try to use you to attain them. Why is that?”
“I accepted you for who you are when we met. I’m also the only drake I know of who only lets you use him if he wants to. You’ve never tricked me into helping you and you know it.”
She gave him a fond smile. “True. It is the one thing about you that I don’t like. When I want you to be more malleable, you should be. But I respect your strength and even admire it. Why haven’t I had your hatchling yet?”
“Because I don’t love you and so I’m infertile when I’m with you. And that’s the way it’s going to stay since you don’t love me. You’d try to use any child we had to influence me, and I’d have to put your head in my trophy room for that kind of behavior.”
“Would you at least put my head in a place of honor,” she asked with a grin.
“I’d find the dustiest, most remote corner I can find, even if I have to make a more remote corner than I have now.”
Her grin widened. “So you would do something special just for my skull. Good.” Her grin vanished and she looked at him seriously. “Do you ever think you could love me?”
“Easily.” He smiled at her surprised look. “You still tick all my boxes. But the problem is that you’d have to make room in your heart for me. Do you think you could love me?”
“I know I could. But the other golds wouldn’t let me be queen with you as my consort.” She shrugged. “A dragoness has to look to her future too.”
“When you finally become Her Resplendence, you’re going to learn it’s even more ceremonial than it looks,” Iain warned. “You should have figured that out when you were Nithraseth’s mate for a century. I don’t know why, but you are blind to that little fact. You’d have much more power, real power as a governess like Arithallos is.”
“Dragons don’t see your clan as something to respect or fear,” Vivahdri pointed out. “It’s not really that powerful the way we measure power.”
“Ask the spirits of the chromatics whose heads are in my trophy room if my power isn’t real,” Iain replied. “Nobody has been able to prove they’ve killed more adult dragons than I have, and we do keep score. Whether the golds admit it or not, I and my clan are powerful. And my clan is only going to become more powerful as the years pass. I have plans and they’re already in motion.”
She gave him a winsome smile. “Would you care to tell me what they are?”
“I’d like very much to tell you about my plans,” Iain said honestly. “I could really use your help with many parts of them. You’d find your part in them very fulfilling and rewarding, both on a personal level and on a monetary level.” Her eyes went wide. “But I can’t. You’re an outlander and my plans are for clanswomen only.”
“I am going to become the queen of the golds,” Vivahdri stated flatly.
“I have never doubted that for a moment,” Iain said. “But I think you’re going to discover that a quote that a famous Vulcan named Spock once said about something else is just as applicable for you as it is for most Vulcans.”
“I’ve never heard of these Vulcans. What did this Vulcan say?”
“He said: ‘After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.’ He said that to another Vulcan, who had just acquired what he thought was his heart’s desire.”
Vivahdri smirked at him. ‘It sounds kind of silly.”
“You wanted to become Nithraseth’s mate. You applied for the position, and he chose you over two other quite suitable dragonesses. Yet, once you achieved that goal, you found you were not nearly as happy with the position as you thought you’d be.” He cocked his head. “If you’ve forgotten that, I still have the letters where you told me all about it because I was sympathetic and far enough away not to cause trouble for you.”
She laughed softly. “I was so young and foolish then, baring my heart to you. I know now that you can cause trouble on the other side of Toril for someone, if you put your mind to it.” She draped her arms around his neck and kissed him gently. “I said too much too openly in those letters. I never thought you’d keep them. Destroy those letters for me, please?”
He smiled. “No.”
“Because I don’t want to. I value the friendship I have with the dragoness who wrote those letters to me too much to ever destroy them. Vivahdri, I have no plans to interfere in your goal of becoming queen of the golds. I’ve helped you quite a bit already, as a matter of fact. And we both know that I’ll more than likely help you with this quest too.” Her eyes lit up. “But it’s going to have to wait a little while. Selsharra and I have some things to do. She wants me to help her with this and what my mate wants is much more important to me than anything that someone who is my friend wants, so, unless circumstances change between us, what she wants will always outweigh what you want.”
She smiled at him again. “That only makes sense for you and yours. What if I wanted to be your mate but not have anyone else know that I am your mate?”
“I have done something like that before, but there is one huge potential issue.”
“What is that?”
“The children of my women, whether I sire them or not, are my children. I will love them, I will cherish them and I will help to raise them. That is something that is not ever going to be negotiable.”
She looked surprised. “You would let me be with other drakes?”
“I will be with other women and at least one of whom is another dragoness, that being Arithallos. It would be manifestly unfair of me to try and keep you from being with someone that you wanted to.” He shrugged. “Even if you did it for some advancement and you didn’t care for them all that much, much less love them.”
She nodded. “But how would you feel about it?”
“He wouldn’t like it,” Selsharra said from the doorway. “He would just never let you know how much he didn’t like it. And if you paraded this male or males in front of him, I’d beat your ass for it, even if I have to bring an army make it happen.” She closed the door behind her and advanced on the dragoness. “Yes, I know exactly who you are, Vivahdri the gold dragoness. I also know exactly where to get that army and they would cheerfully help me carry out that task.”
Vivahdri looked evenly at Selsharra for several seconds before speaking to Iain without looking away from the moon elf. “Could she succeed?”
“The women I love are rather remarkable. If she catches you by surprise, she might be able to take you without that army.”
“You’d help her do this if she asked you to, wouldn’t you?” The dragoness nodded to herself before he could answer. “Yes, you would. Mates come before friends.”
“I wouldn’t ask him to become involved,” Selsharra stated. “And without that request, he’d stay out of it unless one of us was in danger of being killed by the other. At that point, he’d stop us both.” She smiled thinly. “And if you were his mate, whether secretly or openly, you’d have the weight of the entire clan behind you. All of the influence and knowledge of the Brightwing clan could also be put to your use. They approve almost universally of the pairing between Iain and Arithallos because it has been very good for them, both in wealth and in knowledge, which is their stock in trade. And we both know they are very influential among even the gold dragon clans. A good word for you in the right ears from the right Brightwing, say a highly placed holy warrior in the service of Bahamut, would make your goal of becoming queen almost inevitable.”
Vivahdri was staring at her, openmouthed. She visibly pulled herself together. “Who are you?”
“Who I am isn’t important to you, Vivahdri,” Selsharra said. “I’m just an elf. But you’ve taken up enough of Iain’s time today. Are you staying as our guest? Solnys knows you’re here and she will be more than willing to arrange for you to have the room you prefer during your visits. Just understand that Iain and I are leaving on a trip, and he won’t be back for at least a week.”
“Where are you going,” Vivahdri asked curiously.
“There is no need for the gold dragon community to know what clan is doing,” Selsharra countered. “You, as much as Iain likes you, are still an outlander.”
“She’s right,” Iain said. “Now, do you want that room?”
“I can’t stay,” Vivahdri said. “Can you send me a letter letting me know when you are back so I can talk to you again?”
Iain considered his response for several seconds before Selsharra whispered to him through her twee. She will be a good clanswoman, when she finally comes around, and a good mate for you. Do what she asks.
“Sure,” Iain said.
“I’ll be looking for it,” Vivahdri said happily. She rubbed her cheeks against his again. “Until then.” She nodded to Selsharra and slipped out the door, giving Iain a wink as she left.
Iain waited until the door had shut. “I’ll wash my face.”
“Thank you. I prefer you smelling like you.” Selsharra said as she plopped down on the bed to wait.
Iain appeared from his bathing area, rubbing his face with a towel. “Why are you encouraging her?” He tossed the towel on the bed.
“Zilvra, Helesatra and Arithallos were good choices for wives for you,” Selsharra said as she got up. “While I have not known them as long as I have the women here, Eirian approves of the women you have added to your family and harem on One. Even as arrogant as she is, I respect Eirian’s opinions on things like that. And since you were smart enough to marry Kasserine and Ava, it shows that Eirian is likely correct in her assessment of Ninhursag, April and the others. While she is not really of the same quality as your three wives here, Vivahdri, once she’s been queen and given it up, will be a solid addition to the clan and to your bloodline. Her ambition and thirst for power will drive her to be more amenable to traveling to other worlds, something none of the three here are interested in doing. In the long run, that makes her more valuable to the overall growth of the clan than any of the other three here.” She smiled. “If she and Mariko become friends, she would make an excellent counselor to the young Nipponese Empress.”
Iain laughed. “You are definitely one of Kasserine’s bloodline. You’re as smart as she is. And you’re almost perfect in your assessment of Vivahdri.”
“What mistake did I make?”
“You’re correct in your assessment that Vivahdri is as ambitious as any pokegirl can be. In those letters that she would like me to destroy, she once laid out her plans, even then, to become Her Resplendence. She decided on that goal after she became Nithraseth’s mate and has chased it ever since. Once she gets that out of her blood, I could focus her on any other goal that she perceives as equally challenging and fulfilling. And as a gold, if I aim her at something she sees as evil, she would be unrelenting in her pursuit. In her own way, she is of the same quality is someone like Zilvra or Ari. She and Lucifer and Pandora would make an incredible team.” He realized that Selsharra was staring at him with a broad smile on her face. “What?”
“If our children have your mind, which is what drew me to you in the first place, our combined bloodline will endure forever.”
“You’re as smart as I am,” Iain said.
Selsharra’s smile became a grin. “Well, yes, I am. But my sister and her family should have been as smart as I am too, and they managed to kill themselves off in a relatively short time. We won’t let that happen to our children.” She took his hand. “Now, I believe we are off to the Lemon Sour for a quick trip to the other side of the valley to pick up our passengers and then to Evermeet. Let’s go.”
Selsharra pointed ahead and to the right. “Land there, in the center of the Ardulith River. It should be more than deep enough for your ship. There are sandbars that move around in the rest of this part of the river, but there have never been any there. It’s where my spelljammers landed when they were ported here.”
Iain guided the Lemon Sour towards the indicated section of the river. The Ardulith was several hundred feet wide here, but the water was slowly moving and easily navigated. Iain knew that was true for almost the entire length of the river from its source just north of Ty'athalael, all the way to where the Arulith emptied into the sea at the capital of Evermeet, the city of Leuthilspar. “You were on spelljammers?’
“We were chosen by the Seldarine to lead the elves here and to rule over them,” Selsharra said. “The Imperial Elven Armada was important enough that a member of the royal family was expected to always be a part of it. I was chosen to be the Crown’s representative. I refused to be commissioned just because I was a princess, started as enlisted, served seven multiyear tours, and worked my way up to the rank of squadron commander before I stepped away from it all to begin my formal training as a High Mage. I was replaced by my nephew, Prince Fenren. He was not what they were expecting after me and he was not well received.”
“Let me guess. Just a mite entitled, was he?”
Selsharra laughed as the ship touched down. “Very much so, as you would say. I believe he expected to start as an admiral or at least as the highly ranked aide to an admiral.”
Iain used his twee to drop anchor. He watched it splash into the water and chuckled. Selsharra gave him a curious look and he nodded towards where the chain rumbled as it was playing out. “I was thinking about the fact that I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve actually used the anchor as an anchor. It mostly functions as ship’s ballast that needs to be run out and oiled regularly.”
“How did you keep the ship from wandering, if you didn’t drop anchor?”
“I used the engines for station keeping. It’s a holdover from my training as a starship pilot and it’s much more precise, which makes locating the Lemon Sour again much easier than if it’s bobbing around at the end of a long chain anchored to the seabed. Using station keeping also means I don’t have to carry a parachute anchor for very heavy seas.”
“This ship can fly,” Selsharra pointed out.
“That helps too, but sometimes it isn’t the best option for the situation.” He watched the ship swing about and secured the anchor. “We’re set.” Selsharra stepped in front of him and held up her arms. “What’s this?”
“Your flight doesn’t use up your magic, so I see no reason to waste mine on a short flight spell. Land far enough up the bank my boots don’t get muddy, please.” Iain scooped her up and flew across the water, landing well up from the shore. Selsharra gave him a quick kiss before he put her down. “Follow me.”
She led him to an open area that overlooked the river. “This is where my castle is.”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “Is?”
The air wavered in front of them and became a moon elf. He stood as tall as Iain and his black hair was in a braid that hung to his knees. He grinned at them. “Welcome back, Selsharra. I believe someone owes me an apology.”
Iain noted the elf’s opalescent green eyes as Selsharra laughed. “Uncle Vaceran, I had completely forgotten about our conversation and formally apologize for not believing you when you said I would return one day to reclaim my place in Evermeet. How did you know?”
“The future is easily read if one knows where to look,” Vaceran replied, his eyes sweeping over Iain. “And this is your husband, the elf who is not. You will introduce us.”
Selsharra nodded. “Uncle Vaceran, this is Iain Grey of Clan Grey. Iain, this is my uncle, Vaceran. He’s not really my uncle and he’s not really an elf.”
Iain bowed. “I am always pleased to meet another ghaele. May I ask why Selsharra calls you uncle?”
“You have met ghaeles before,” Vaceran said. “How?”
“On a different Faerun, my instructor was a Chosen of Mystra, who there was the replacement of Mystryl after she sacrificed herself to save the Weave. During my time as his student, I met several eladrin of various sorts and recognized your energy pattern.”
“I owe you much,” Vaceran said. “You have brought my niece back to life so that her line can continue after the interruption involved with her becoming a baelnorn and the rest of her bloodline’s destruction. While it is Corellon’s will that she returns, you are not Corellon’s instrument, yet you serve his will in this. I feel that you are still someone’s Servant. Who is it among the Seldarine that you serve?”
“I serve his daughter, who voluntarily left the Seldarine when her mother was exiled in order to bring light to the drow and seek their redemption and return to the surface.” Iain replied.
“Eilistraee is well known and respected among us,” Vaceran said. “My niece calls me uncle because I am brother to the king who came here to lead the elves when they came to this world. While I am not truly her uncle, as my descendant, Selsharra is of my blood, and so will be your children with her be mine as well. My duties do not allow me to watch over them like she tried to do before the others wiped themselves out, still I have followed their history with all the intense interest of a blood relative who has no children of his own.” He gestured around them. “I knew she would return one day, and I have, with the permission of my queen, kept watch over Selsharra’s home and, to a lesser extent, her lands.” He smiled when Iain looked around curiously. “To keep pretenders from claiming the last of our titles, I took her castle with me to the Feywild.”
“That explains why the title was never awarded to anyone else or absorbed into the new ruling family. They wouldn’t have dared try to thwart yours or your queen’s will in this,” Iain looked thoughtfully at Selsharra. “Does Kasserine and Ava know this part of their history? If Uncle Vaceron exists on Twelve, they probably have a duchy waiting for them there.”
“I don’t know if they’re aware of what happened,” Selsharra shrugged. “I believe their Selsharra had the same past as I do, but I am not certain. You will have to ask them.”
“Yes, I will.” Iain looked at Vaceran. “Is it Lord Vaceran or is there some other title I’m supposed to use when addressing you?”
“I am a rank equivalent to what here is a duke, but there is no need for titles between us. After all, you have not asked that I use your title, have you, Iain Grey, the Grey of Clan Grey, equivalent to an emperor and who outranks me?” Vaceran grinned at Iain’s surprise. “Even though she died thousands of years ago, Selsharra is the only member of my bloodline left. I knew she would return to claim her title and, eventually, to guide Evermeet as it so desperately needs, but how she would return to life and accomplish what I knew she would do was not revealed to me then. So I have watched her and those around her as closely as my free time allows.”
“You know she’ll guide Evermeet?”
Vaceran nodded. “She is a princess of my line and the true leader of Evermeet. Will she become queen, as you hope? That I do not know. Even if she remains a duchess, she will guide these lands as she did before.” He grinned again. “And I will not warn the current rulers of Evermeet about what I know. They are not family and they do not matter in the grand scheme of things.” His grin vanished. “I do know they are as solicitous of their safety as my line was of its and so they are thinning their numbers out by the year, making a potential bid for the throne less risky overall. And Corellon has never withdrawn his blessing from our line.”
Iain chuckled amusedly. Selsharra raised an eyebrow and he grinned. “If you’re still blessed by the head of the Seldarine and you’re likely to be blessed by both of the Sisters soon enough, you just might produce triplets every time you become pregnant.”
Selsharra looked startled for a second as Vaceran laughed loudly and then shook her head ruefully. “I may not be able to wait too long in a situation like that,” she said with a slight smile. “Otherwise I just might spontaneously become pregnant when you’re nearby.” She winked. “I intend to do this the right way, husband.”
Vaceran grinned. “You have never been this comfortable around a man before, niece.”
“I’ve never known anyone like Iain before,” Selsharra was still watching Iain. She refocused on Vaceran and gave him a winsome smile. “Uncle, would you be so kind as to return my castle?”
Vaceran nodded, wavered like heat lightning and vanished. Selsharra looked at Iain. “I don’t know how long it will take for him to do this, so we can go wake the horses while we wait.” She held up her arms. “Carry me, please.”
Iain swung her up into his arms and kissed her thoroughly. “I missed the chance to do this last time,” he said as he lifted off and flew towards the Lemon Sour.
“Try not to be so negligent again,” Selsharra said in a husky voice. “I have thousands of years of not being kissed to make up for, according to Ava.”
Iain laughed as he flew into the ship’s hold and landed gently, lowering Selsharra to stand. “She’s usually right, so I’ll try to be more alert to opportunities to help you with that.”
In the hold stood three unmoving silver horses. They were surrounded by a nimbus of solid appearing amber light that pulsed brighter once every five seconds before returning to its original intensity.
Nearby, on a hook hung a leather adventurer’s pack. Iain pulled a potion bottle from the bag, uncorked it and slung the contents at the horses. The light around them vanished.
One of the horses shook his head violently. “Are we there yet?”
“We are, Dafydd.” Iain looked from the stallion to the two mares. “We’re anchored in the center of a river, and I thought I’d levitate you onto the main deck so you can fly to shore from there. Each of you will head up and drift to the left until you land.”
“That would be nice,” one of the mares said politely. “The entrance to the hold is very constrained and our wingspan is wider than it is. Taking off, climbing out of the hold and trying to navigate the entrance at the same time would be very difficult.”
“That’s true, Bethan.” Iain touched her on the nose and she floated upwards.
“Can I ride you out of here, Lowri,” Selsharra asked the other mare.
“I will be helping carry you for years,” the mare replied. “Of course,” Selsharra slipped onto her back just behind the wings as Iain touched Lowri on the nose. They headed upwards as Iain touched Dafydd on the nose too. The stallion kept flexing his claws as he headed up, but that probably wasn’t that strange, not when compared with the fact that the reason they’d slept the entire trip was because they were prone to violent bouts of motion sickness when they were flying and not under their own power. It didn’t happen if they were in a waterborne vessel but lift off into the air and the vomiting would shortly begin. Iain had tried carrying one in his claws while flying and again in a harness strapped to his chest. Nothing had stopped the bouts, not even magic to control nausea.
But then, considering the history of the silver horses, it was a wonder they didn’t have more issues. Originally bred from horses by using silver dragon sperm, they’d then accidentally become sentient a hundred years later when Iain had added Laraxithius’ DNA to the mix while attempting to increase their stamina. Becoming sentient had ended Iain’s experiments with them since, after becoming sentient, they were now people with all the rights of Grey clanswomen, including twee.
Iain grabbed the case holding the saddles required for riding the silver horses while they were airborne and dropped it into a lifting net. He tied a rope to the net and tossed it out of the hold before climbing up out of the hold.
Selsharra and the silver horses were already across the river and on land. Iain chuckled and pulled the case out of the hold. It was unwieldy, so he just left it in the net and lifted off, using the rope to carry it with him as he flew over to where they were.
When he was halfway across the river, there was a bright flash of light and a white marble building appeared where Selsharra had said her castle belonged. Iain pulled into a hover to examine it from where he was.
It was fairly small as castles went and was designed more as an administrative hub and family residence than as a fortification. That made sense, considering that the area was in the middle of the elven homeland and unlikely to be attacked by an army. There was an outer walled courtyard and an inner keep, though, and it could be used as a defensive structure if needed. Maybe there had been some feuds going on locally when it had been created or built.
Iain landed just as Vaceran flickered back into existence. “I have brought,” he began, only to break off when he saw the silver horses. “What are these?”
Bethan sniffed the air. “You look like an elf, but you don’t smell quite like one and you don’t feel like one.”
Iain motioned towards Vaceran. “Gentlebeings, this is Lord Vaceran. He’s Selsharra’s great great something uncle from the Feywild, from her father’s side, and he’s a ghaele duke from the court of Queen Morwel, the queen of the eladrin. Vaceran, these are silver horse members of Grey. The stallion is Dafydd, the taller mare is Lowri and the slenderer one with the blue lines running through her scales is Bethan. She’s the herd mare. All three are sworn into Selsharra’s service as her retainers.”
All three silver horses bowed in unison. “If you are family to Selsharra, then you are a friend until you prove otherwise,” Bethan said. “Do we address you as Lord or as Your Grace?”
Vaceran bowed back. “I have never seen your like and I am addressed as Lord Vaceran. In private, you may use my given name. How should I address you?”
“Our names are sufficient,” Dafydd said.
Vaceran frowned and leaned forward. “Would you please show me your teeth?” Dafydd bared his teeth and Vaceran blinked. “You are a meat eater?”
“We are draconic,” Bethan said. “We can eat meat, plants and minerals if we desire. I am partial to fish, but I also like fresh cabbage and the bark of young willow trees.”
“I must admit that I have never seen your like before,” Vaceran said.
“We are unique to the Grey Clan,” Bethan supplied helpfully, “because we were created by Iain.”
Vaceran looked curiously at Iain, who nodded. “I wanted a flying pack animal that was smarter than a pegasus or a griffin with better stamina than either. They turned out to be self-aware, which meant they were people. Under our rules, I made them welcome, explained what had happened and offered to induct them into my clan. Fortunately, they accepted. I offered to help increase their numbers artificially and the herd mare agreed it was a good idea. Now there are several thousand of them living at various clan sites. A few have left the clan to seek their fortunes on their own, but that is their choice.”
“The ones that returned,” Bethan took up the tale, “helped us to understand that, outside the clan, we will be hunted as animals or monsters. With Iain’s permission and the clan’s help, we tracked down the wanderers who still lived and rescued those that wanted it. I and my herd agreed to come here and serve Selsharra. We hope that Evermeet will become a haven for our kind, as it has become one for the moon horses and some other sentient non-humanoid races.”
“I do not know about how you will be received in Evermeet,” Vaceran said, “but I would welcome you in my lands in the Feywild.”
“Thank you for the invitation,” Bethan said, “but our place is with Selsharra. If you wish silver horses to come live with you, become clan and ask the Grey to see if some herd mare finds you acceptable.”
Vaceran blinked in surprise at the mare before he burst out in riotous laughter. “You are a saucy one,” he said as he wiped tears from his eyes. He turned to Selsharra. “I must go, but you can rest assured that I will be back. Are you pregnant yet?”
“I want to make sure I don’t have to go to war to get my duchy back before I start having children,” Selsharra said. “Iain and I agree that there will be assassins who somehow decide that my presence is a threat to the royal family and will seek my life not long afterwards, so it is best to wait a little longer even after that.”
“Why would assassins decide you needed killed,” Vaceran asked curiously.
“When they were ordered to by someone in the royal family,” Selsharra said. “While my duchy was never given to anyone, after my death, my family took over the income from it, as I had requested. When my line died out and Venlee Greenshadow became the first Greenshadow queen, they took all of my family’s income and added it to their own. Unless you went to court and told them, they may not even be aware that the duchy exists as a unique entity.”
“Why would I tell those pretenders to the throne anything,” Vaceran asked sourly.
“I guess a surprise is what it’s going to be,” Iain said. He looked at Selsharra. “Vaceran, while we’ve just met, I would like to praise you for safeguarding Selsharra’s duchy. That will be a great help with making sure she ends up where she’s supposed to be.”
Vaceran bowed. “You speak very carefully. I like you. Still, I must go. I will return when I can.” He roughly hugged Selsharra. “Be careful,” he said. “Our line must continue.” He smiled at Selsharra as he held her at arm’s length. “Her Majesty sends her greetings and wants you to visit when you can. She said to bring your dragon, which I believe means your husband.”
Selsharra started in surprise. “Why would Queen Morwel want to see me?”
“Her Majesty does not impart such information to someone as lowly as I am,” Vaceran said loftily. “She ordered me to give you this invitation. I do not believe, however, that she means you any ill will.” He cocked his head. “You know that my brother was also eladrin, do you not? He was a fey eladrin and you share his blood.”
“Does Her Majesty have a time in mind for our visit,” Iain asked as Selsharra continued to stare at Vaceran.
“She asked that you be reasonably timely,” Vaceran replied. “Having received her invitation, that traditionally gives you a year and a day to communicate your intent to accept her invitation. After that, you have a decade to visit the court.”
“Can you take us there when we’re ready to visit? I know that only Her Majesty controls access to the Court of Stars.”
“I have been asked by Her Majesty to convey you to the Court of Stars when you are ready to attend.”
“We accept her invitation,” Selsharra interjected. “It will be a few years before we can go there. I must put my duchy in order now.”
“You have but to call my name and I will come,” Vaceran said.
“Good.” Vaceran faded into nothingness.
“What next,” Iain took Selsharra’s hand.
“I need to find a sage to prove I am who I am so that I can approach the historian at court and formally become the duchess of Ty’athalael once more.”
“Let me guess, a sage with a specialty of the ancient rulers of Evermeet will most likely be found in Luethilspar.”
“I hope you’re right, because someone like that might also live far from cities to study in solitude.”
Iain grinned. “Do you know why most sages are found in cities?”
Selsharra frowned. “Is this one of your jokes?”
“No, it’s not. It’s a commentary on society and on individuals and I find it funny, but it isn’t a joke. Sages work very hard to become the masters of whatever subject they decide will be their life’s work. But they are like other academics in that they must be acknowledged as the penultimate expert in their craft. It would be best if everyone knew they were the best, but if nothing else, their rivals must absolutely know they’ve been outmatched and you can’t do that out in the wilderness. It’s why wizards aren’t usually considered to be sages. Most of us don’t care what others think about our research and skills. Our reward is in what we accomplish for ourselves.”
Iain continued. “Sages care what others think. They must be the best and everyone else has to know that they’re the best. One of the reasons why they often only work for more information on their beloved subjects is so they stay the best and they are found in cities so everyone knows it.”
Selsharra nodded. “What is frustrating is that my library contains everything that I need to document the duchy’s history and to help prove who I am. I have the original papers and every time someone wrote a book about my family, I acquired a copy. The problem is that finding those mentions of the duchy could take decades.”
Iain was looking at her with an amused smile. “Everything you need is in your library?”
“I believe so.”
Iain looked thoughtful. “Would you be upset to learn that I copied everything in your library into mine? I’ve also done it with the other Selsharra’s library, Kasserine’s library, Kasumi’s library, the dead Nightraven’s library and Ygerna’s, along with everything we took from everywhere else.”
“I was not aware of that, but it makes sense considering who you are,” Selsharra said. “However, it would make the search even more difficult, not easier.”
“I believe in backups. I believe in backups for my backups. Except for the small number of books that cannot be copied, and I have found ways around that for most of them and am looking for workarounds for the rest of them, I have multiple backups of my library. Five of those backups are digital and have been fully indexed and cross referenced, thanks to Theodora and Daya. We can do a word search for the various documents in them that reference you and the duchy. And one of those digital copies is at the Observatory.”
“You put all of my things into the report you compiled for your teacher,” Selsharra asked.
“No, but there is a copy of the report in my library. She doesn’t get access to my library yet.”
Selsharra looked thoughtful. “We may have to have a known expert sign off on it to give your information legitimacy.”
Iain nodded. “I intend for us to do just that. If nothing else, for a sage for whom the royal family is their passion, the report we’re going to put together will be a unique document and should be ample payment for that sage to review and add her name to it. So we’ll bring two copies of it.”
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
Matilda - White Tigress
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female
74 male Goblins
89 female Goblins
Queendom / Outer Clan
1048 Elves & Elfqueens
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Liadan - Twau
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)
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
Myrna (Age 4)
Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)
Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)
Seraphina: Megami Sama
Miram: Angel (Age 5)
Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)
James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)