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One Hundred Forty Four
Followed by Caintigern, Nightraven turned and flew across the waters of Viking Bay. In the center of the bay, pillars rose from the seabed and supported a platform on which a house rested. Under the platform, in the water, a group of Baryonyx circled around a Basilosaurus, protecting it and the water under the platform from the attacks of wild animals.
The south side of the platform was large enough for both dragonesses to land together and they did, shifting back to their human forms after landing and heading inside.
Iain smiled as they came in. “The table is set and dinner is ready as soon as you wash up.”
“Why do we need to wash,” Caintigern asked. “We can use magic to sterilize our skin if needed.”
“Our children won’t be able to do that and we agreed that we will practice having them around,” Nightraven said. “We must wash as they will.”
The meal was a simple one and, as was the custom among the People, eaten in silence. After cleaning up, Iain gave each woman a goblet of wine and motioned for them to come with him. He led them to his office and gestured towards a trio of comfortable looking couches. “Please have a seat.” He waited until they were curled up on their favorite couches before sitting down on the third couch.
“Is there anything new to report,” Caintigern asked.
“I gave up two weeks ago,” Iain replied. “I cannot find a way to intervene without us becoming part of the cycle of betrayal and violence. So I did what I do in situations like this, I shelved the entire project and did something else for a few days. I have found that doing so often allows my brain process things without me trying to force answers from it. Sometimes that works better than trying to grind through something. I did come up with a potential answer. It’s solid and it could solve all of the instability problems, but it isn’t anything that we’d considered before. And, in the end, it raises a lot of potential problems that direct intervention did not.”
“Is it using a proxy to take the throne,” Caintigern drained her wine and put the goblet down. “I suggested that earlier.”
“And, as we determined when you did suggest it, it has the same problems as us directly taking the throne,” Nightraven said. “Someone killing the ruling Queen and taking the throne while we rule behind the scenes merely aims the next uprising at her and not at whichever one of us is Queen at the time.”
“I had hoped that Iain had found a way around those problems,” Caintigern said crossly.
Iain shrugged. “If I had, we could apply them to one of you taking the throne and skip the proxies all together. After all, in the end, a proxy would have her own ambitions that would eventually conflict with ours.” He rubbed his temples. “I found exactly one place where we could interfere in the timeline without the whole thing exploding in our faces.” He looked from one woman to the other. “The only thing I could come up with that would make this even begin to work was that we intervene during the reign of Queen Malikar XXXIV.”
Caintigern and Nightraven looked at each other and back at Iain. “Are you proposing that we kill Queen Malikar XXXIV and take her place?”
Iain shook his head. “Of course not. After all,” he gestured at Caintigern, “she’s you before you abdicated the throne. The branch that your younger self’s murder, at our hands, would create is impossible to predict except I’m certain that Princess Stillwater would move against us as soon as she realized what had happened and she would essentially be committing suicide if she challenged either of you.”
“She would have to fight either of us if she had any hope of becoming Queen,” Caintigern said. “I abdicated because she couldn’t defeat me then. You are right. She would have no chance of victory against me or against Nightraven.”
“Blacktooth had many followers,” Nightraven observed. “Killing them would invite the Queen to intercede to protect those who, to her, were still loyal members of the People. Putting her against us would eventually end up with her death, as well as the deaths of countless members of her family and People who got in the way of the battles. How can we intervene at that point?”
“You’re assuming that we do the same thing we were planning to do to any of the usurper bloodlines and wipe them out.” Iain leaned back in his seat. “Doing that would just create the same cycle of destruction as it did when Blacktooth killed the new Queen and took over. We will have to use a plan that’s entirely different from the standard one of kill the enemy Queen and enough of her followers to cow the rest of the population into accepting our rule and not rebelling against us. It’s dangerous, mostly to me, and it means you’re going to have to trust me more than you planned to, especially in the initial stages.”
“I do not wish to put you in more danger than is necessary,” Nightraven said. “Is there a way to reduce the amount of danger you must face? If not, can we face it with you?”
“For some of it, yes, you will be able to be there with me and, trust me, I will want you there. For the rest, you should be able to watch from a distance with your twee or magic and show up if I need help, but otherwise, no.”
Caintigern frowned. “Under the original plan, you would have been our scout and we would have not been able to interfere due to the magic that was set up by Blacktooth to detect the return of any of the Royal bloodline. From what you are saying about this new plan, not much has changed in that regard. The spell to detect us would not be in place, however so we could be present.”
“That’s true and yet it’s still wrong,” Iain said quietly. “Do we all agree that we aren’t going to kill your earlier self and destroy the Royal bloodline?”
“Yes,” Nightraven said thoughtfully, “What do you suggest instead?”
“With your help, what I want to do is contact Queen Malikar XXXIV while she’s still planning to abdicate the throne to Princess Stillwater, but before she carries out her plan. At that point I can, with your help, use the knowledge that you two possess to convince her change those plans. That would create the branch where the People survive much earlier than we’d considered. The situation would be stable and the cycle of dragonesses vying amongst themselves for the throne would not have started. If we do this properly, it never will.”
Caintigern shook her head. “This is not going to work. I was tired of being Queen. I wanted to dedicate myself to my research into magic and turn the responsibilities for governing the People over to the Princess.”
“You did not consider letting her defeat you and take the throne?”
“I was tired of being Queen,” Caintigern stated. “I was not tired of being alive.”
“Did Princess Stillwater know that she could not defeat you,” Iain asked.
“She did. She knew she was not ready to challenge me for the throne. She did not understand that, at her current rate of progress, she would never be capable of defeating me.”
“But you knew this.” Nightraven looked thoughtful. “And you decided to upset society by abdicating.” Her gaze sharpened on Iain. “If Queen Malikar XXXIV was unwilling enough to remain Queen to do something completely unprecedented in the history of the People, you realize that you are unlikely to convince her to remain Queen. At best, she might stay on the throne for a few more years, but that will change nothing. You want to convince Caintigern’s younger self to remain after giving the throne to her daughter and either convince or force the People to accept the change in custom.”
Iain smiled. “Very good, but that’s only part of my plan. I also want to show her and the Princess the threat from Blacktooth, her spawn and her minions. If we can convince them of that, you get to watch them die. You might even get to help. Additionally, if we can pull this off, your mother and other relatives don’t get butchered out and a young Nightraven can return home when she is unable to locate Winter’s Dream.”
Nightraven looked surprised. “If you copied all of the existing records at the time of the destruction of the People, do you have more information on what happened to her?”
“I’ve been kind of busy trying to figure out how to give you two what you want and she wasn’t part of that focus. We’ll have to look.”
Caintigern eyed Iain curiously. “Why can I not speak to my younger self directly?”
“I want you to think about how powerful you were at that point in your life and how powerful you are now. What would you have done, if at the time in your life when you were Queen Malikar XXXIV and were considering abdicating the throne, a dragoness of the People as powerful as you are now had appeared in front of you and began telling you what to do?”
Caintigern looked at him thoughtfully. “I would have found it impossible to believe that a dragoness as powerful as I am now could exist. By definition, education, breeding and training, the Queen is the most powerful of the People. I would decide that it was a trick of some sort and begun working to determine what the truth of the situation was.”
“And,” Nightraven added, “as soon as you thought you could, you would be very tempted to kill her.”
“That would depend on what I could determine about her bloodline. If she was of the Royal bloodline, I would put her to work for me and have her teach me to be more powerful than I already was.”
“And when she told you that you couldn’t give her orders,” Iain asked.
Caintigern smiled. “I would tell her that, wouldn’t I? And, as Queen and being unused to being told no, I would not receive such a statement well.” She laughed. “And, while I would find a dragoness such as I am now to be a terrible threat, I would give a drake as magnificent as you a great deal of latitude in your behavior, if only while I was trying to have his children. Will you mate with her?”
“My plan is to eventually tell her about the two of you and then arrange for a meeting on neutral ground so she can see why I would not wish to breed with her, Queen or not, when I have such superior dragonesses already available.”
“I wouldn’t accept that reasoning and neither will she,” Caintigern said.
“And you should know,” Iain smiled. “Well, that means that unless you two intend to kill her, I’ll have to figure out some other way of doing this so you don’t squash her for wanting me.”
“If you are not fertile with her, there is nothing that either of us will have to do about her,” Nightraven observed. Iain looked surprised and she nodded. “That would not be the normal response of a dragoness to a drake she is currently mated with who mates with another dragoness, but our situation is not normal to begin with. As you have said, here we make our own rules as we as we decide that we should. You are a drake that other dragonesses will want. Refusing them all will make things very difficult for you. If one of those dragonesses is a younger Caintigern, refusing her may make our mission impossible. But with your rules for being involved with the lives of your children, impregnating any of them would be a mistake.”
“Not to mention you two might take it poorly if I did,” Iain muttered.
“Not to mention the two of us would take it poorly if you did,” Caintigern said firmly. “But you will not. If you were going to impregnate females you weren’t in love with, at least one of us would already be pregnant.”
“She is correct,” Nightraven added.
“I am not changing my rules about my children. I wouldn’t change them for any woman I don’t love.”
“Then Queen Malikar XXXIV is safe from our anger over that,” Caintigern said.
Iain nodded. “It sounds like we have the bare bones of a plan. We’ll develop it in more detail, but we all need to keep in mind that a lot of our plans will be contingent on how the Queen and the Princess react after we establish contact.” He shrugged. “If she’ll even be willing to talk to me.”
“I believe I can guarantee that the younger me will want to at least be acquainted with a drake such as yourself,” Caintigern said. “But we will work together to make you even more attractive to her when you and she meet.”
Texas was a voluntary representative republic. Each person, which was defined as any self aware, non-feral individual aged sixteen and over, chose their representative by going to the local political office, like Buck’s place in Austin, and filing their proxy with that person. That person then represented the people who had given him their proxy and those people only, giving him a percentage vote in the Texas Legislature directly proportional to the number of proxies he held. Or her.
A person could rescind their proxy at will, and the representative received a daily tally of their percentage. A representative who voted against the will of his proxies could find herself, very quickly, without anyone else to represent except herself. At that point he was free to represent only herself, go home or seek the proxies of others who agreed with her views.
With the slow spread of advanced technology from Iain and Kerrik, plans were already in place to allow people to assign and rescind proxies online. Eventually, it was hoped, the government offices could be closed or at least greatly reduced in use.
There was no government salary from being a representative. Either a representative had her own income or convinced the proxies to support her while she represented them, which made keeping her representatives happy with her work important. There were no offices, no staff, nothing, unless the representative provided it. If someone wanted to represent people badly enough, they figured out how to make it work. The only thing Texas provided to a representative who journeyed to Austin was the loan of a desk in the Texas Legislature Hall of Representatives.
It was a small desk. Made of painted steel. It did not come with a chair.
The Texas Legislature met when representatives who constituted the proxies of ninety percent or more of the people of Texas were present at one time in the Texas Legislature Hall of Representatives. When the percentage dropped below ninety percent, the session ended. Immediately. That meant that if things became too acrimonious, ending a session could be accomplished by leaving and convincing enough representatives to leave with you.
Yes, it meant that the Texas Legislature didn’t meet often and didn’t get much done, but that was the way it was designed to work. When Texans had set up their government, they’d had their fill of being told how to run their lives and had decided to make sure that sort of thing was kept to a minimum.
The Presidential election was slightly different. It took place every three years. The President represented the league, or country to most people. Anyone was free to run for President and the election went in steps over a week, or longer if necessary. Each vote was tallied and the bottom half of people hoping to be elected were eliminated. As the eliminations proceeded, there was one vote a day. Then they voted again and again until someone got ninety percent of the vote or there were two people left. The person with the highest percentage became President and the person who had the second most votes became Vice President.
When Lorena Robinson had become the President of Texas and David Lyons had become Vice President, the two had known of each other but had only met during the debates while on the campaign trail. It had taken over two years before they’d finally become friends.
Iain handed Aaron a mug of beer, another to Lorena and checked the screen before leaning against the wall and sipping at his mug. “What’s the verdict?”
“We won’t hit ninety percent tonight,” Aaron said. “But David is still at the top of the leaderboard so he won’t be cut.”
“Bummer. I’d even dressed for the speech of the victors. Guess I lost the pool again.”
Lorena looked Iain up and down appraisingly, smiling at his suit and sting tie. “You clean up well.”
“It’s the suit.” Iain grinned. “Considering what it cost, it would make anyone look good.”
“I don’t recognize it. Who made it?”
“It’s a Gieves and Hawkes.” Iain sipped at his beer again.
Lorena’s eyes unfocused for a second. “Premier tailors from London? How did you get a suit from London?”
“I snuck into London and got it. They were still in business since the Blue leadership needs nice uniforms. We settled on twenty bolts of the fabrics needed to make all of the parts of this suit and two more like it, in addition to the fabric for the suits. So now they have premium kattle wool and silk for the shirts and ties. The tailoring is excellent and is even cut to allow me to carry my pistol in a shoulder holster if I wish.”
“I’m surprised your women didn’t haven an aneurism over that little trip,” Aaron said with a smirk.
“They suggested it and they provided security for it.” Iain smiled amusedly. “One, I desperately needed some good suits and, two, it was a proof of concept to demonstrate to Queen Zara that we can penetrate Blue completely when she’s ready for the final push.” He fingered the lapel. “It is a nice suit, but I could have taken the fabric to some of my people in Grey Valley on Twenty Three and had them make me something comparable, once they accepted the idea that I hadn’t lost my mind regarding what I wanted to wear. Or Theodora could have made them for me, but this was a better idea overall.”
“I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around other universes and you being older than dirt,” Lorena said.
“What she really has a hard time with is the fact that you hid so much from her while we were outlanders,” Aaron added.
“Well, it wasn’t any of her business at the time.” Iain rubbed his eyes. “I’ll want your help later, if you don’t mind.”
“Over the last few weeks, Amanda and I have finished moving the Ranger post to Port Arthur. Now I need to write my resignation. I’d like to keep it civil but firm enough that nobody thinks they can spend the time before it becomes finalized trying to waste my time talking me out of it.”
Lorena blinked. “What about Amanda?”
“She’s going to stay on for a while. I hope and I recommended that Chief Garrett will promote her to major and give her my job when I’m gone. Her plan is to train our replacements over the next couple of years before she leaves to rejoin the Sisterhood and the clan.”
Aaron looked at his beer and back at Iain. “Why quit now?”
“Lorena asked me to stick around and I said I would. My ladies like me having such a prestigious position, but it wasn’t something I ever really wanted to do. I have more than enough to do without that job adding to the list.” He glanced at Lorena, “The most important part is that I’m going to do some things that Texas isn’t going to like. This is my home. I’m a Texan by birth and I don’t want to put David or Garrett in a position where either or both will have to disavow me. Leaving the service of the Texas government will help to keep that from being an issue.”
“What are you doing,” Lorena asked.
“With all due respect, you have no need to know,” Iain replied. “By the way, I understand that congratulations are in order and that you’re pregnant.”
“Thank you,” Lorena said. “I’m still very early in my pregnancy, but Candace says everything looks excellent.”
“That’s good to hear. And with your twee, I don’t have to take that beer away from you.”
“You stay away from my beer if you want to keep both hands,” Lorena growled. “I don’t know where you’re getting this beer, but it’s even better than what Joyce made.”
“I’m importing it from Twenty Three. I took Joyce’s recipes and seeds with me and had a little free time to experiment. More importantly, I found someone who wanted to carry on her work.”
“Dwarves,” Aaron asked.
“No, my dwarves were interested in mining much more than brewing. I found a kobold who was interested and she got others involved. This beer is an export item. The beer they make for internal consumption is called Fireball. It’s derived from this beer, but it’s got some pepper spices and whatnot in it that this version doesn’t and gives it quite a bite. It also has an alcohol content that’s around fifteen percent. Kobolds claim their metabolism burns the beer without them getting drunk, which is utter nonsense.” Iain hefted his mug. “I prefer this version over Fireball. We also make a couple of different varieties of alcohol from mushrooms that is very much an acquired taste.” He smiled. “It took me several years of drinking it to acquire a taste for it. Even now it’s not my first choice for something to drink.”
“If you didn’t like it,” Lorena asked, “why did you drink it for so long?”
Aaron held up a finger and grinned. “It was for a woman,” he predicted.
Iain chuckled. “Yes, it was for a woman that I later married. Zilvra was originally from a subterranean society that makes a lot of their food from various fungi, including the booze they don’t import. She’s very fond of one of the wines from her original city and we make that specific kind of wine in the valley.”
“Do they eat meat?”
“Oh, yes, they breed an animal that’s something like a miniature oxen or buffalo for meat and leather. Other meat animals include some horse sized lizards. They also fish in the underground rivers and lakes where it’s not too dangerous. And, again, they import a lot of things from the surface even while vowing to wipe out the surface dwellers and sacrifice any survivors to the Spider Queen.”
“Sacrifice?” Lorena looked slightly ill at the thought. “Like Aztecs?”
“Actually, yes, it is a lot like that. Most of the time they chop out the heart, although they don’t burn it to carry messages to the Spider Queen like the Aztecs did. The sacrifices are to placate her as much as she can be placated, which isn’t very much. She’s very angry and nuttier than a Payday candy bar. Sadly, for the rest of the universe, she has moments of rationality and she’s cunning like a racoon. That and the drow are very powerful individually.”
“If she’s so crazy,” Aaron asked, “why do they worship her?”
“She’s made them kind of crazy too, and their crazy makes them think she’s sane. Some of them can be reasoned with. The rest,” he shrugged, “The presence of the drow in the Underdark does help to keep the other crazy people who live underground in check. Some of them are a lot crazier or evil than the drow are. It doesn’t help that almost everyone who lives in the Underdark is power hungry and expansionist. Compared to some of them, like the aboleths or the beholders, the drow are paragons of virtue and strive for the betterment of all around them.”
“How did Zilvra escape from that?”
“Eilistraee speaks to every drow at least once in their life and offers them a chance to shake the bonds of drow society off and make their way to the surface. The Spider Queen can’t stop her from doing it. That’s something else that keeps the Spider Queen perpetually pissed off. Some few of the drow listen to Eilistraee’s message and accept it into their heart. They try to leave the cities and move to the surface where they then try to live a good life and seek acceptance from the other surface dwellers. Zilvra was one of those. They have to flee from regular drow society because they will be sacrificed if discovered.”
“How did you come to meet her?”
Iain smiled. “That’s a story for another time.”
“Still things we aren’t supposed to know,” Lorena asked.
“Yes, but this isn’t one of them. However, it’s Zilvra’s story to decide if she wants to tell you or not.”
“Do any of your wives have lovers,” Lorena asked suddenly.
Iain eyed her suspiciously. “Several of them do. They’re here and have lovers among the harem and clan.”
“Do any of them have lovers that aren’t clan?”
Iain glanced at Aaron, who didn’t look happy. “Eve married me while she and Lucifer were lovers. Lucifer wasn’t clan then. What is this about?”
“Do any of your wives who aren’t pokegirls have lovers,” Lorena asked.
“As part of her position as priestess of Eilistraee, Zilvra has been involved with the orgies that sometimes happen during weddings. So have I, sometimes at the same orgies. And, as a drow, sex is used as part of power politics among them, so she’s slept with male and female drow she wanted to exert her dominance over. It’s an accepted part of their culture. Drow don’t have a word for adultery. But then the worshippers of the Spider Queen don’t recognize marriage either. Eilistraee is more of a hedonist and, if everyone is cool with it, marriages can be quite flexible in that regard and as open or as closed as the participants want. Plural marriages are also allowed.”
“Has Zilvra gotten pregnant by them?”
Iain shook his head. “It’s not about children and she controls her fertility so it’s not something to be concerned about. So, the answer is no. I ask again, what is this about?” He looked at Aaron. “Someone needs to answer.”
“Lorena’s libido goes through the roof when she’s pregnant,” Aaron said quietly. “I’m barely keeping up with her and the others as it is.”
Iain looked at Lorena. “Are you helping Aaron with the other women in your family?”
“I am. I love them too, but they don’t do it for me like a man does.”
Iain nodded. “Aaron, how do you feel about this?”
“I don’t want her involved with orgies like you said your wife was.” Aaron looked at his beer and took a long drink of it. “But I’ve been thinking about it and I can accept her being with another man, if it’s with someone I can approve of. I must be able trust him not to hurt her or to try to do anything stupid. She loves me and I love her and that, I know, is never going to change.”
Iain eyed him closely. “Speaking as someone who has done a lot of counseling over the years, you don’t sound like this is something you can accept.”
“I didn’t say it would be easy,” Aaron sighed. “It won’t. What do I do if she decides she loves him more than she loves me?”
“You think she might love this man?”
“We both agreed that this is a decision that we would make together,” Aaron said. “It has to be someone that we trust pretty completely. Going from that level of trust to love isn’t hard. Insisting that she not love him would be silly and, honestly, not really all that fair to them.”
“In the time that I have known you two, I have seen you fighting. I remember a week where you two weren’t speaking to each other.” Lorena smiled. “I wasn’t your counselor then so I didn’t express my opinion about it, but I did see it. The love you two share has never wavered, not then and not with the addition of the Milktits and, later, Hypatia. If you are determined to make this work and you never lose sight of that, you will. However, I have to ask Lorena, what about Aaron? If you can have a lover outside of your family, can he?”
“He has the girls.”
“No, the girls are family. Hypatia, although she wasn’t at first, is too. Unless you marry this man or otherwise make him a part of your group, he’s not family.”
Lorena blinked. “I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
“I didn’t think you had.” He looked at them in turn. “You now have something to discuss. You may also want to discuss this with your other family members since this could end up involving them just as much as it involves you. You need to remember that they are, unless they choose not to be, equal members of your family. This is especially true now that all of you are clan. Since you have your homework and we really can’t proceed until you’ve turned it in,” he grinned. “I think we’ll adjourn this discussion until after you’ve talked.” He looked at the screen. “Well, you’re right. They’ve called the tally for tonight and will vote again tomorrow.” He bobbed his head in a bow. “You can leave your mugs and they’ll get cleaned up later. I’ve got an appointment with Matilda to go hunting in the moonlight.”
“Isn’t that a little crazy,” Aaron asked.
“No, it’s a lot crazy,” Iain said. “But it’s what Matilda wants for the first part of tonight.” He smiled for a second. “Theodora will run security with drones in case we run across anything that could prove more of a danger than a challenge. She’ll take it down before we run across it, if it’s really nasty.” He put his mug down unfinished and tapped his holster. “And I’ll have my pistol while she’s a veteran fighter.” He waved. “See you.”
Iain watched Eilistraee and Mielikki step through the portal and bowed as it closed. “Welcome to One, Ladies.”
Mielikki looked around with a smile at the trees. “I have missed this forest. It is where we met and where I made the wise decision to let you become part of my life.”
Eilistraee’s eyes lit up. “I have more worshippers here!” She bounced forward and hugged Iain. “Thank you!” The height difference between them meant she shoved his face into her breasts. He made a muffled noise against her skin and she laughed as she released him. “That was not a complaint.”
Iain shook his head and chuckled. “No, it wasn’t. And it never will be if, later, we can do that again when neither of us is clothed.”
She grinned and gestured at her nude body. “It’s not me who is holding things up.” Her smile faded. “There still aren’t enough worshippers for me to divide and remain here, but I’m sure that will change in time.” She looked down at Iain. “You’ve done well.”
“Ava and Dancer have been doing a lot too,” Iain said. “More than me, to be honest. They’ve been proselytizing in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Port Arthur, San Antonio, Stile and down into the new lands Texas acquired from Sunshine. A beautiful elven woman and a talking horse can draw a lot of attention.” He frowned. “Speaking of equines, Mielikki, there’s been a change in the unicorn herd. Golden Cloud is no longer the herd mare.”
“She’s not dead, is she,” Mielikki asked in surprise. “No, I sense her life still.”
“No, she’s healthy. The Queen is now the queen of the herd. I don’t know how or why the change happened. I just know that it did. I found out about it when The Queen tried to use the change in leadership to claim I was supposed to breed her and not Golden Cloud.”
“Did you tell her to go fuck herself or were you more polite than that,” Eilistraee asked with a grin.
“I was a little politer than that. I had to explain to her that my agreement was with Golden Cloud, not with whichever mare held the title of herd queen and that it couldn’t be transferred unless I agreed to allow it. Then I politely refused to agree to allow the change.”
Eilistraee eyed him curiously. “Why?”
“I’ve spent some time getting to know Golden Cloud. I like her. She’s odd, but in an amusing way. She tricked me and I can admire that. Trying to just claim the things that Golden Cloud won from me instead of earning them on her own does not raise The Queen in my estimation. Not to mention being at her beck and call would set the wrong image of our relative rank and would eventually cause trouble with others among the outer clans when they assumed that was the relationship I had with all outer clans.”
Eilistraee nodded. “Your logic is valid and I agree with your conclusions. I want to send some of my worshippers to One to bolster my strength here.”
“I will need some time to find a suitable location for a colony. We’re not set up for one here at the Sabine Ranch.” He looked thoughtful. “Someplace in Africa, perhaps, or somewhere else that has resources rich enough to justify it and a low enough population that they won’t be a problem while we’re getting established.”
“You will not bring them here?”
Iain shook his head. “A starter colony on a new world is going to be at least fifty thousand strong. Anything less is just asking to get wiped out during the initial stages of getting established. While I have the land to site it here, I don’t have the mineral wealth its governess is going to expect and she will very definitely not want to be living right next to the Grey’s residence.” He smiled. “That’s a lot more oversight than she’ll want.”
“He’s right,” Mielikki said to Eilistraee. “And every new colony adds to the clan’s land and power. Putting it here would not do that since this is already clan land and he has the Sisterhood’s forces and Ninhursag’s as well as everything that Theodora and Daya have placed here. Our children from Twenty Three would not add measurably to the clan’s power here.”
Eilistraee nodded slowly. “I hadn’t considered it that way and you’re right. Iain is always looking to increase our power and he is correct to do so.” She reached out and stroked his cheek as a portal opened behind her. “I must go. Come home soon.”
“I’ll only have been gone about fifteen minutes when I return, but I will.” He watched her step through the gate before addressing Mielikki. “Are you staying for a while this time?”
She smiled at him. “Thank you for not pointing out to Eilistraee that you are home now. As for me staying, I divided again before leaving Twenty Three. I will be staying here for the foreseeable future. This is my place too, after all.” She gestured and the gate closed. “I have an errand I need to run to complete moving here. I’d like you to come with me. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“I wasn’t sure what the plan was so I cleared my schedule for the rest of the day after you informed me when you and Eilistraee would be arriving.”
Mielikki smiled. “Good.” She held out her hand. “Take it.”
He raised an eyebrow as he did. “You don’t need this to take me with you.”
“No, but I like touching you.” An instant later they were standing on the shore of a large lake.
Iain consulted the satellite constellation with his twee. They were on the northern side of Konevets, an island in Lake Ladoga that had been hotly contested property between Russia, Finland and Sweden over the centuries. It had been in Russian hands when the leagues had decapitated the world governments and was now part of Ruby. “Why are we here?”
“I’ve had a strange feeling that I needed to come here,” Mielikki said, her eyes sweeping the area alertly. “I think it has something to do with this world’s analog of me. We must find her.”
“This is not my original world, even if I have claimed it. She can cloak her presence so I cannot precisely determine her location.”
“I’m surprised she’s still around. The Karelians and the Finns have been Christian for a long time.”
“True, but it hasn’t been all that long since they completely relinquished the worship of their own gods, including the local Mielikki. I know she’s nearby. I am keeping her from sensing my presence. I would like you to transform into a bear and call her.”
Mielikki nodded. “The largest bear you can become, please.”
“I can become a Faerun dire bear. It masses about the same as a bull elephant. Is that what you want?”
“That would be an excellent choice.”
Iain shrugged. “You’ll need to let go of my hand.”
Mielikki looked at their hands and grinned. “I don’t want to.” She released his hand. “Hopefully this won’t take long and I can get your hand back.”
Iain moved away from her and shifted. As a dire bear he stood nearly three and a half meters tall and six meters long, with a mass of around four tonnes.
Mielikki stroked his head. “Very impressive. Now call her.” Iain shook himself and roared. He waited a few seconds and roared again. “She is coming.”
“I hope that’s all we’ll encounter,” Iain said quietly. “Getting hit by ferals right now could be awkward.”
“There are none nearby.”
A woman stepped out of the woods where Iain would have sworn there had been no one. It was Mielikki, but a different Mielikki than the woman he was used to. She looked gaunt and her face was lined with weariness and a tinge of fear. She was wearing a naturally colored wool kirtle that was belted at the waist. He also noted that she was barefoot. She looked him over appraisingly. “How can you be? You are not truly a bear and you are a worshipper of mine.” She frowned. “No, you worship someone like me. I feel you are not a threat to me. Why have you come here?”
“I asked Iain to call to you,” Mielikki said. The strange Mielikki started in surprise and took a quick step back as Mielikki revealed her presence to the other goddess. “I mean you no harm. I sensed that you were in danger somehow and came with my Chosen to see if we can aid you.”
“You should leave. If they find out about you, they will hunt you too,” the woman said. “Just as they do me. I don’t know why, but for some reason they want to kill me. I have never harmed the fey.”
Mielikki’s eyes narrowed. “Danu?”
“Yes, but there are two of them now and I cannot protect myself against both of them working in concert. Only the fact that this area is mine and I can harness its power has kept me safe from them.”
Iain shifted back to his human form. “They’re nature deities too. They will eventually find her. She needs protected.”
Mielikki nodded. “They hope that they can learn something about my weaknesses from her. Fortunately, they are still unaware of just how powerful I have become.” She stepped forward, holding out her hand towards her analog. “Let me help you.”
The Mielikki of One looked at the hand and then looked at Iain. “Can I trust her?”
“I’m here with her,” Iain said. “I’m her head priestess on this world and we’re lovers. My opinion of her is going to be biased.”
“I thought that might be the case. Your answer will tell me what kind of person she allows to serve her, which will tell me much about her.”
“Unlike me, most of her worshippers are good. Don’t judge her because of me. She was kind of desperate when she asked me to become her priestess.” The Mielikki of One folded her arms and waited. Iain sighed. “She is clan and she is looking for ways to gain power for the clan and herself or to prevent the Danu goddesses from exploiting the potential weakness you present if they can get to your memories since my goddess originally came from a world like this one. You can trust her to be selfish like that but still try to help you out because of her innate goodness and desire to help others.” He looked thoughtfully at her. “If it helps, she told me before coming here that she wanted to talk to you. I have yet to catch her in a lie. If she’d intended to attack you with me in support, she’d have warned me and we’d have already done so.” He smiled suddenly when she gave him an annoyed look. “Fine. I believe you can trust her, but you shouldn’t since she has ulterior motives.”
The Mielikki from One looked past him at Mielikki Grey and smiled at her irritated expression. “He drives you crazy sometimes, doesn’t he?”
“You have no idea just how true that statement is.”
The Mielikki from One looked back at Iain. “What is your ulterior motive?”
“I want everyone that I love to be able to die of old age if they desire to. Almost everything I do is to make my family and clan strong enough to have that goal become a reality.”
“Do you love her?”
Mielikki from One frowned slightly and stepped forward to peer into Iain’s eyes. “What are you?”
“I am a dragon.”
Mielikki from One stepped back a pace and looked at him thoughtfully for what seemed like a small forever. “Do you ever tell lies?”
“Yes. I’m very good at it. I will not, however, lie to you.”
She nodded, still with that thoughtful expression on her face. “Should I accept her offer?”
“D&D are not going to stop hunting you until they have you. They’re used to winning wars with other gods and, as their fey grow up, they will grow in power.”
“I don’t name gods unless I have no choice except to say their names. That refers to the two versions of Danu. They wish to grow in power and secure the future of the fey. They’ve either decided you are easy prey or that you can help them deal with me and mine.”
“Or both,” Mielikki Grey said quietly.
“Or both,” Iain agreed. “You cannot evade them forever.”
“No, I cannot.” She looked at Iain. “You will serve as the conduit.”
Iain frowned. “Excuse me?”
“She is concerned that I will drain her of her power and then consume whatever is left of her,” Mielikki Grey said. “She wants you to be the conduit because if I attack her and she defends herself during this, you will die. You are her hostage to my good behavior.”
“Fuck,” Iain said quietly.
“You have to volunteer,” Mielikki Grey said. “And your refusal will not change my opinion of you. Let us go. After all, I do not need to help her.”
“It’s actually a very smart requirement,” Iain said. “She is willing to gamble that you value my life enough as your Chosen to not do anything that would get me killed for no worthwhile return on my life.” He smiled at the Mielikki from One. “Just so long as you don’t do anything stupid and try to kill me while this is going on in an attempt to weaken my goddess. You will do well in the clan. I accept your volunteering me to die for you.” He raised a finger. “This one time, mind.”
Mielikki from One looked at Mielikki Grey. “How long has he been yours?”
“Around a thousand years.”
“That would explain why he is so familiar with me,” she noted amusedly.
“While you might think so,” Mielikki Grey disagreed. “The truth is that he’s been like this almost from the day I met him. He wasn’t even a worshipper of mine yet, much less a priestess, and yet this has been his behavior from the beginning. He is this way with other gods too. His mortal women say he has some innate charm that keeps him from being killed even when he’s behaving in ways that people like us don’t appreciate. He denies any such ability.”
“I haven’t seen any proof that I possess such a power,” Iain noted.
Iain gritted his teeth for a second. “What do I need to do for this to happen?”
“You cleared your day for me,” Mielikki Grey said.
“I cleared my day to do something fun or productive. No matter how much you two might enjoy doing so, bashing on Iain doesn’t amuse Iain. It’s certainly not productive.”
The Mielikki of One eyed him thoughtfully before nodding. “You are correct.”
“You take our hands,” Mielikki Grey said. “When we merge, it will be inside you. That is why if there is a contest between us, you will die. The energies that would be released in even a minor struggle between us would destroy your body.”
“Oh,” Iain said in a small voice. “Chest burster time, I see.”
“It would be more of a cloud of superheated steam as your entire body vaporized,” Mielikki Grey said.
“Even better,” Iain replied dryly. “Can’t wait.”
Mielikki from One smiled. “Are you going to change your mind and refuse my request?”
“It wasn’t a request. You said I would serve as the conduit. It was an order. And no, I will not change my mind. I’ve had one goddess inside me, now I get to have a threesome.” He grinned at the two of them. “With twins.”
Mielikki Grey grinned at the shocked expression on her counterpart. “The word you’re looking for to describe him is pervert.”
Mielikki from One gave him a skeptical glance. “I suspect he would wear such a title with pride. He must be incredibly useful as a Chosen for you to tolerate his behavior.” She took his hand.
Mielikki Grey’s humor vanished. “When I arrived here,” she said flatly, “and met Iain, I was as powerless as you are now. I had no hope, no happiness and my future was pallid and unpromising. I believe that making him my priestess and, later, my Chosen is what changed my path to allow me to be where I am now. You will see soon enough what I mean.” She took Iain’s left hand. “Now.”
Both women flared with golden light and flowed into Iain’s hands to vanish. He grunted, his face turning pale, as pressure built in his chest. “They always” he said in a strained voice through clenched teeth, “forget to mention that it’s going to hurt.”
I doubt it hurts them, his twee noted. The things we allow for the women we love.
Sweat beaded Iain’s forehead and began to run down his face as the pain grew and spread. He closed his eyes and focused his attention inward to try and understand what was happening inside him since it was magical and new.
Then the two goddesses reappeared, each holding his hand. “And we’re done,” Mielikki said. She frowned at the wet spots darkening Iain’s clothing and the sweat on his face. “Are you all right?”
“No, but I’ll get better. It was a tad uncomfortable.” He looked from one Mielikki to the other. They looked the same as they had before. “You look different from each other. Last time you looked the same.”
The Mielikki holding his right hand smiled. “I look as I did a few minutes ago because I intend to deceive D&D as to my revitalization so they will continue to think they can hunt and kill me.”
“I take it that if they catch you, they’ll be in for a surprise?”
Mielikki smiled predatorily. “They decided to hunt me of their own free will because they think they can absorb my strength and use it to eventually conquer the clan and her,” with a nod to the Mielikki holding his left hand. “I did not seek this war with them, but if they do catch me,” she shrugged, “it will not go well for them. I might absorb their strength and then we’ll see what’s what. And if they are destroyed, I can become the goddess of the fey just as they did when they wiped out or drove out the gods of the other fey and took their place. Once, she was only the goddess of the Sidhe.”
“What if they figure out a way to kill you?”
Mielikki kissed him in the cheek. “Your concern is comforting, but with the power I have gotten from my growth as a goddess, I have come back into some of my true power. Both of the women you see are avatars of the reborn goddess Mielikki. Destroying either or both of us will do no permanent harm to me. They have not come into their true power yet. Destroying the forms they wear, if done properly, would destroy them forever.”
“I see,” Iain said quietly.
The weaker looking Mielikki vanished as the other smiled warmly at him. “I am still the woman you love and who loves you, Iain. Coming back into my true godhead has not changed that.”
“That’s good to hear. You had me worried there for a second. What can I do to help?”
“Keep doing what you are doing,” she replied. “Spread my religion, Eilistraee’s religion and the religion of the Sisters. Protect our family and our clan.”
“I will do that.” Iain gave himself a shake. “Sorry, that took a lot out of me.”
“Let me take you someplace quiet so you can rest.” She winked. “And we’ll see what happens then.”
“That doesn’t sound like I’m actually going to get much rest.”
Mielikki laughed. “You must keep your goddesses happy, Iain. Then you can rest.”
“That means I’ll never rest.”
Mielikki winked. “True.” They vanished.
Iain poured some tea and leaned back in his chair as he smiled. “Thank you for this meeting, ladies. Our goddesses have made some requests and I need your help in fulfilling them.”
Zilvra chuckled. “This is unusual. What do they want?”
The meeting was composed of Shatris, Zilvra, Helesatra, Selsharra, Arithallos, Iain and Xune, and was being held in a conference room at Helesatra’s castle in Vyshaan.
“They want us to establish our first off world colonies. Not only will they be off world, but they are also going to be in different dimensions. They want one on Seven, which is where I go to study with Nightraven. They want a second colony to be the initial colony on One. Because these colonies are going to be out of immediate range of support, I want them to be larger than usual. Many of these additional numbers will be wizards, clerics, sorcerers and troops to help protect the colony while it’s getting established and dug in. Later we will establish gates to allow normal contact and trade with both colonies once the situation is more stable.”
“Will militia be acceptable in place of full time troops,” Helesatra asked. “That will allow them to be useful for more than standing around and eating food while waiting for the colony to be attacked.”
“Most of our military is composed of militia,” Arithallos noted. “And the composition of a new colony’s military forces is traditionally all militia to increase the number of working bodies when there isn’t a problem requiring a military solution.”
“I don’t see a reason to change what we’ve been doing,” Iain said. “It’s worked so far, and without any major issues.”
“I want to take a ten minute break.” Helesatra pushed back her chair and stood. “I have to get some things we’ll need.”
“We just started,” Xune pointed out.
“It’s important.” She looked at Iain. “I’m the hostess, but it’s your meeting and so it’s your decision.”
“Ten minutes. Go.” He watched her leave. “If she says something is important, it tends to be exactly that.” He looked at Selsharra. “How are things at the duchy?”
“Recruiting Magrieth Quietbreeze has turned out to be one of your more inspired actions, Iain. I truly believe that she’s sending me warnings about the king’s agents before they leave the castle. She’s been sending me many warnings recently because I am getting more royal inspectors than I knew ever worked for the kingdom coming out to inspect every aspect of the duchy that you can imagine.” Selsharra rolled her eyes. “They’re all spies for the king and their inspections and audits are all interfering in my work rebuilding my duchy.” She chuckled. “Two of them are High Mages who are pretending to be something other than what they are. One is a royal assassin that Magrieth correctly identified.”
Iain grinned. “I won the pool!”
“I’m not sure that’s true. She is a royal assassin, but she wasn’t sent after me.”
“She was sent to examine you and your loyalties and to plan out how to kill you if necessary,” Iain argued. “She was sent after you, it’s just that she hasn’t received orders to kill you yet. I win!”
Selsharra glared at him. “I’ll think about it some more later.”
“He’s right,” Shatris added quietly.
“I said I’ll consider it more later.”
“How do you know they’re High Mages,” Xune asked.
“They and their henchwomen brought the standard panoply of equipment that most High Mages haul around with them,” Selsharra said. “It involves levels of magic that royal inspectors don’t normally have access to. Some of the items that are carried on a mage’s person are quite distinctive and must be worn openly or they will not operate properly. These items are not normally something most people would be able to discern because few people other than High Mages would know these things exist or to look for them. Since I have the same training that they do I can recognize most of the equipment on sight.”
Shatris chuckled. “Someone hasn’t done their homework regarding your past?”
Selsharra picked her mug of tea. “No, they haven’t, which is amusing since the book I donated to the royal library details my life before I became a baelnorn. I had to do so for the book to do its job and help establish that I am that woman resurrected. Iain says this kind of information disconnect is fairly common in large and established bureaucracies.” She looked at Iain. “What did you call the deliberate involvement of one group in a government by encroaching into another group’s responsibilities by the first group or a third group under their connivance with the hope of absorbing some of their power?”
“It’s called a turf war and it happens in far more than governments. Turf wars can definitely cause this kind of information disconnect as departments withhold information in the hopes it’ll make another department fail spectacularly.”
Helesatra returned, carrying a bundle of long scrolls. Behind her was a younger sun elf with dark red hair, black horns and golden eyes. She was wearing elven leathers and had a golden circlet with eight regularly spaced spikes on her head. She was carrying an even bigger bundle of parchment than Helesatra. Over her shoulder was slung a small bag that clanked as it moved.
Xune grinned. “Regwyn!”
The younger sun elf gave her a sharp look. “Sister dear, get your butt over here and help.”
Xune hopped to her feet and rushed over to grab some of the scrolls from Regywn. “Yes, Your Highness Miss Crown Princess Regwyn soon to be Queen Regwyn I.”
“Bite my ass,” Regwyn muttered. “Mother has to give up the throne first and I don’t see that happening this century. Or next century. Or maybe ever.”
Helesatra gave both women a hard look. “You have already mixed the scrolls up,” she said irritably. “I did not want my presentation to comprise of me rummaging through scrolls more than anything else.” She shook her head. “Put them here and sit down.”
Zilvra stood. “I know you too well. The scrolls must be marked. What are the markings? I’ll sort them while you’re setting up.”
“The bands around the scrolls are marked with letters and numbers,” Helesatra gave her sister wife a grateful look. “They are KN, MWAL and SLR. Rregwyn, give me the weights.” Regwyn handed her the bag. “Thank you. You and Xune be seated.” She turned to Iain as the young women sat down together. “I am sorry that I was not prepared for the request to establish a colony on Seven. I was thinking about it while getting the scrolls for my presentation and realized that the answer of where to site the first colony is obvious. Grey Valley exists there and is likely an excellent place for an initial colony. It will still, however, require a ground survey beforehand to evaluate for threats or other potential issues since it’s several thousand years later there than it is here and now.”
Iain looked over the scrolls. “You were ready for the colony on One?”
“It was a logical development in the clan’s growth,” Helesatra said. She glanced at the bundles of scrolls. “Thank you, Zilvra. I would like the one marked MWAL1 first.” Zilvra handed it to her. She took the scroll and unrolled it, placed it on the tabletop and opened the bag to pull out some small granite statues of winged elves that she used to pin down the sides of the scroll. “When Daya came here for her survey to relax the travel requirements, I requested geological and political maps of One so that I could begin planning for our first colony there. I knew we would have at least one of them. It’s part of how Iain thinks.” She gestured at the map. “This place in the Mayoko region of the West Africa League looks to be the best location. The information Daya provided indicates the presence of accessible iron, diamonds and gold, with some nearby silver. There is easy to reach coal and relatively abundant timber. An exposed granite escarpment gives us a good place to dig in. Again, ground surveys will be required as usual before the final decisions are made.”
Shatris grinned. “I am so glad your grandfather never made you a general in his armies. You’d have torn Keltormir’s military to shreds.”
“That’s unlikely,” Helesatra gave Shatris a fond smile. “I am a much better strategic planner than I am a tactical one. Fortunately, Keanellos is very good at winnowing out my bad generals and improving the decent ones.” She glanced at Iain. “And he’s trained his replacements for what’s coming when he moves on soon.”
“What are the other prospective locations,” Arithallos asked curiously.
“There is a large gold deposit mixed with silver and lead on the island of Kyushu in Nippon. It has large proven iron deposits nearby too. The last choice is a large gold deposit in the Irkutsk Oblast in Ruby. In each case I wanted someplace with a low local population and valuable deposits. The Mayoko area has weather that is good for kobolds and most of the crops that are grown there are ones that we are already familiar with or ours can be easily cultivated there. There is something called cassava that I have never heard of, but Daya assured me that it is edible.”
“Everything is edible to kobolds,” Xune pointed out.
“Everything is edible to the dragons who rule the kobolds,” Selsharra countered.
“Cassava is primarily a carbohydrate root crop, although the leaves are rich in protein and are eaten in South America. It is edible,” Iain said. “If it’s prepared incorrectly, the roots are high in cyanates and can be very poisonous, but it’s a stable crop in large parts of the world since it provides a lot of calories, is very drought resistant and requires little care to cultivate. It’s also the source of tapioca, which none of you know anything about but is pretty tasty and will sell well. Once we have access to it, we’ll probably import it to this world too.”
“What of the league,” Zilvra asked.
“The West Africa League was never very organized,” Helesatra said. “And it was targeted in the destruction by the Kingdom of Haven. Daya estimates any military it had was almost completely wiped out.”
Regwyn straightened in her seat. “Father?”
“What is it, Regwyn?”
“I want the governess post for the colony on Seven.”
Everyone turned to look at her. Helesatra frowned. “Are you sure you want this, my daughter? You are my heir.”
“You are happy ruling over the Vyshaan,” Regwyn met her gaze evenly. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Yes, I am your heir. I speak with your voice. I understand and accept that, as the crown princess, it is my place to do so while I am here. However, mother, it is time that I speak with my voice. I am trained as a ruler and I would make a governess that father would approve of and be proud to call clan.” She smiled wryly. “And you’re pregnant again, so you have my replacement already on the way.”
Helesatra nodded slowly. “You are correct in your reasoning.” She smiled. “And you will be an outstanding governess. But why not choose the colony on One?”
“I will prove myself on Seven,” Regwyn said. “When it is time for me to have children, there will be drakes there that I can choose from. That will not be true on One.”
“The colony on Seven will be on its own,” Arithallos pointed out.
“And that’s another reason I want it. Father will make sure we have any support we need. But I want to prove myself and Seven is the best place to do it.” She turned to Iain. “Father, I will accept your judgement in the matter. You have never had a colony fail and I don’t want the one on Seven to do so because I was too prideful and insisted on ruling it when I wasn’t ready to do so.”
Iain looked at Xune, who looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. He smiled at her and then at Regwyn. “With the understanding that, if I didn’t think you were ready, I wouldn’t let you have anything to do with a colony, Seven is yours if you complete an apprenticeship with Solnys and Zilvra. We’ll do the survey within the next moon and the valley was a lot harder to set up than any of the colonies were. Solnys, Zilvra and I can teach you about the special problems it had and what you might expect from the humans and other groups that you’ll have to deal with, probably almost from day one.”
“When do I start, Father?”
“As soon as this meeting is over, I’ll talk to your mother. You will start later this year, probably in a couple of months.”
Iain looked at Xune. “Your daughter, Minaer, is doing a good job standing in as governess in Nambale and you didn’t drop by just because you could. You want the colony on One.”
The gold dragoness smiled. “I do. It’s going to be the launching point for anything involving Orb Weaver and it’ll be using technology far more than anyone here does. Technology fascinates me and I want to learn as much as I can about it.”
“How did you know what this meeting was about,” Arithallos asked curiously.
“I dropped by to talk to Father and he told me about it. Minaer was ready to take over Nambale and, like Regwyn is, I am ready for a new challenge. I loved setting up the colony. Once it was established it got kind of boring and, as Father is fond of saying, ennui is the death knell of people like us.” She grinned at Iain. “I’m also experienced enough not to take umbrage at having to teach someone else and you can apprentice Mariko to me so she can learn what it means to be clan and a clan ruler at the same time.”
“Will you be available to help me with Regwyn’s apprenticeship,” Zilvra asked suddenly. “You’re familiar with the issues involved in establishing a very remote colony, having done so in Nambale.”
Xune glanced at her sister. “Each colony presents its own problems and each colony, even one in the same place that Grey Valley is, will be unique far more than you can expect, Regwyn. Do you want me to help teach you about what I’ve learned in establishing Nambale?”
“I very much want that.”
“I’ll be there in two tendays, Zilvra,” Xune announced. “I will need to formalize the transfer of power between me and Minaer before I do anything else. Please have my room freshened.”
“I think perhaps I should become a hermit or adventurer for the next few years or maybe the decade,” Iain said softly. He blinked when Selsharra and Helesatra laughed. “I didn’t say that out loud, did I?”
“Why would you want to run away from a situation where several strong women unused to someone else exercising command control over them all find that they are suddenly stuck in the same place and must work together?” Selsharra grinned at him. “You’ll just have a crown princess, a newly unemployed colonial governess, a High Priestess of Eilistraee and a colonial executive officer in Solnys. And you get to be their referee. What could go wrong?” She smirked when Zilvra and Xune stared at each other and Regwyn. “I believe that Vivahdri could use your help. Maybe it will lead you to a different planet in this sphere.”
“I think I’ll just go on the run,” Iain said quietly. “Maybe I’ll become a pirate, steal a ship and sail far from Faerun.”
“I’ll just ask our goddess to find you and ask you to return immediately,” Zilvra said with a warm smile. “And that only if you ignore my messages to your twee.”
“Fine.” Iain leaned back in his chair. “I expected this to be an exploratory meeting, not one where we made some hard decisions, but thanks to Helesatra, we’re to the stage of scheduling the site surveys.”
“Does that make me a treat,” Helesatra asked innocently. Selsharra gaped at her and shook her head briefly.
Iain laughed. “It doesn’t apply to wives, but yes you are.”
“Sorry, I forgot.”
“What is she talking about,” Arithallos asked.
“It’s a harem thing,” Iain explained. “They’re always competing against each other for my attention and I came up with the designation of treat for someone who did something really creative. It’s a version of an attagirl and I swiped the idea for it from a friend of mine named Ciaran.”
Zilvra looked at Arithallos and then Selsharra. “Are we competing for his attention?”
“Always,” Arithallos said with a grin. “Even Shatris is and she’s not married to him.”
“Do not say that around my husband,” Shatris snapped. “He wouldn’t understand.”
“Bloody hell,” Iain muttered. He raised his voice. “Enough, ladies.” They all looked at him. “Stop harassing Shatris. She’s part of our command staff and she is our friend. As for her competing with everyone for my attention, it’s normal behavior.”
Shatris looked surprised. “It is?”
“You’re not after my affections or sexual favors. You are my subordinate, you’re ambitious and you want my professional favor just as much as any other person in this room does. Rardur does it too when meeting with both me and Zilvra, because Zilvra outranks him too. He’s just not aware of it. It would be more common among the males in our hierarchy, except that right now I don’t have any male subordinates who are this high in rank. Point of fact, I’m not married to Xune or Regwyn and they do it too. It’s a power dynamic thing.” He looked around the room. “Thanks to Helesatra, we’re done here today. Does anyone have anything else they want to address at this meeting?” He waited a long moment. “Very well. I’ll set up the site surveys for after Regwyn and Xune are living in the valley, but that won’t involve most of you ladies. Helesatra, thank you for hosting and,” he grinned, “thank you for thinking about what directions the clan should be taking and doing a great deal of preliminary work towards it. You were more prepared for this than I was and I’m supposed to be thinking ahead of everyone else.”
“We all help each other out,” Helesatra demurred. “None of us can think of everything all the time, except perhaps the Sisters.”
Iain’s grin widened. “Well, then thank you for the assistance. It just means I’ll just have to do better from now on.”
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
Tadalareth – drow drageloth, daughter of Alyfaen, stolen by House Janaleth
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)