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One Hundred Forty Five
Elizabeth stopped with Iain and, after making sure her hood protected her from the bright sunlight, looked over the scene below. “It’s very impressive,” she said. “It looks a little medieval, but that’s from what I’ve seen in books. The images from the Iain Grey database are much more informative than the books are.”
Iain ignored the comment about the databank based on his memories and life experiences as he gestured at the castle in front of them. “That’s the Castle of Serenity and it’s the seat of Selsharra’s government.”
“I’ve done a little research. Evemeet is only supposed to be open to elves to visit or live in.”
“There are a couple of exceptions to that but it requires the approval of the king or queen. And that’s why you are a moon elf now.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “Ava said I was stacked as an elf.”
“She’s right. You’re hot.” As a pokegirl, Elizabeth had an average build. As an elf, that build became very curvy when compared to the slender elven women who predominated the elven race.
Elizabeth gave him a fond smile. “You think I’m hot no matter what, Iain. That’s wonderful, but it does mean your opinion is suspect.”
Iain smirked at her. “Doesn’t make me wrong.”
She stopped and looked at him for a moment. Then she grinned widely enough to show her fangs were gone. “No, it doesn’t.” Her tongue licked her teeth and her smile faded. “I will get them back, right?”
“Elizabeth, I hated the idea of having someone drink my blood.” She looked surprised. “Then I met you and I decided to give it a try, for your sake. I could have put you on blood, even mine, in a way that didn’t allow you to bite me, but I wanted to give you what you wanted, if I could overcome my prejudices. It took a lot more effort than I’m proud to admit, but I did. I grew to enjoy you feeding from me. It not only feeds you and keeps you healthy, it has become something special that I share with you. You aren’t you without your fangs and I assure you that you will get them back regularly while we’re here so you can feed from me. What’s amusing to me and frustrating as hell for Ganieda is that I’ve only overcome that bias for you.”
“I’ve heard her complaining about it. What about here?”
“You were here for centuries, Iain.”
“I was. And I never willingly let anyone else do to me what I let you do.”
Elizabeth peered into his eyes. “Willingly?”
“There was a werewolf bitch who partially shifted while we were in bed. We were playing a game and she tied me up beforehand. She bit me in the throat something like how you do. However, she’d grown a muzzle to get contact with more of her teeth because she was trying to infect me with lycanthropy. I later found out she had a pack of males she’d infected and was their alpha bitch. After killing her, I removed their lycanthropy and let them go.” He shook his head. “The stupid ones went back to the township, where the villagers promptly massacred them. The village idiots believed that everyone in that pack was a willing participant. Over the years a few others, including two vampires, have bitten me in the neck. None of them lived long afterwards.”
“Were you infected by the werewolf?”
“I am immune to things like that, both through my magic and my protections from my goddesses. Even if I wasn’t, I could cure lycanthropy in me too. Let’s go.”
There were three guards stationed at the gate, two obvious ones that served as tripwires in case of attack and a third hidden away to observe the other two. Both of the obvious guards knew Iain and their leader nodded to him as she gave him a welcoming smile. “Your Grace, it’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you. Is Selsharra here today?”
The guard shook her head. “Something from the river attacked some travelers and she’s out with a group hunting it. She should be back before supper.”
“How are the travelers?”
“They lost a horse but got away after that.”
“I see. Thank you.” He headed inside, followed by Elizabeth. “I’ll give you a quick tour and then we’ll see what’s next.”
He reached out through his bond with Selsharra. Do you want help?
He felt her affection wash over him. We’ve already killed it. It was a crocodile nearly fifty feet long. We’re checking the riverbanks for tracks to make sure it was alone.
I haven’t seen one that big before. And crocodiles are not native to Evermeet.
I know. I suspect that one of the High Mages was involved. One of them has crocodile boots and gloves that she often wears. It would be simple enough bring a fragment to life and enlarge it to a monstrous size if it wasn’t that way already.
If you bring part of the crocodile here, I can check for any residues of magic. If it hasn’t been too long since it was created I might be able to find traces of alteration or the healing magic used to bring it to life.
I intend to build a trophy room like yours and this crocodile’s head will go into it, so it’s already in a Dikon for transport. The rest of it is being skinned and butchered out for use. I’d hate to see all of that meat just left to rot.
Good. When you get here, you’ll find out I’ve brought Elizabeth here with me. We have a mission.
Her chuckle echoed in his mind. I like her and I look forward to finding out what this mission is when I get back in the morning.
We’ll be waiting.
Elizabeth had been hesitant when Selsharra had strode confidently into the room, but relaxed when the moon elf had ignored Iain to sweep her into a hug. “It’s good to see you, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth hugged her back. “You too. Your castle is incredible.”
Selsharra released her. “That’s my uncle’s work. He took outstanding care of it while keeping it safe for me.” She looked Elizabeth up and down. “You look good as an elf.” She winked. “Even if your tits are huge.”
Elizabeth shot Iain a glance. “Did he tell you to say that?”
“Iain told me you were here with him. That’s all he and I discussed about you.” She came around and burrowed into Iain’s arms. “Even though it’s only been a tenday, I have missed you so much,” she whispered. “Kasserine is right. There is something in your touch that I need.”
“It’s all of us,” Elizabeth said. “Even the newcomers like me feel it.”
“Well, as long as I have it, you’re all welcome to get some of it,” Iain said magnanimously. A servant came in and stood next to the doorway. “Selsharra, there’s someone from the kitchen here to see if you’ve had breakfast.”
Selsharra went up on her toes and kissed Iain soundly before turning to the servant. “I have not had breakfast yet. Have Iain and Elizabeth eaten?”
“Your Grace, Lady Elizabeth declined to eat,” the servant said. “Lord Iain has been eating off and on since he got up, as I have been told is usual for him.”
Selsharra chuckled. “I don’t think she likes your eating habits, Iain.” The servant flushed.
Iain held up a hand defensively. “I only took what the cook said I could have.”
Selsharra was looking at the servant. “You’re new. What’s your name?”
The sun elf maid blushed more. “I am Gildi, Your Grace.”
“Thank you, Gildi. Please have breakfast brought for me and my husband.” Gildi nodded and quickly left the room. Selsharra continued watching the door. “Do you think she’s a spy,” she asked quietly.
Iain’s eyes unfocused for a second. “Mialla says Gildi is unmarried, barely of age and part of a family that came here from a village a week’s travel away seeking work. Her father is a smith and one of her mothers is a sorceress who focuses on healing magic as a kind of hedge witch. Mialla sent someone to verify their story and the locals consistently claim Gildi’s family has lived there for decades and times were rough for them. The father discussed moving as soon as the area heard about the return of the Castle of Serenity. Apparently their ancestors served you, including the father’s something great grandmother. Mialla thinks you’ll be getting more of them coming here in the next few years.”
Selsharra looked surprised. “Now that I know that, Gildi reminds me of one of my scouts and huntresses, a talented woman named Lorarona Alderheart.”
“Gildi’s last name is Alderheart,” Iain said.
“I will have her tested. If she has anything of Lorarona’s skill, she’s wasted as a maid.”
“Don’t forget to ask her first if she wants to be a hunter. It’s her choice after all and she looks young enough to be easily influenced by a pushy duchess into a job she might not really want.”
Selsharra grinned at Elizabeth. “And that’s one of the major reasons why I keep him around.”
Elizabeth laughed. “True.”
“Why didn’t you eat breakfast?”
Elizabeth looked surprised. “You know I’m a pokegirl. I drink blood. This change partially into an elf has allowed me to drink some liquids but solid food is still beyond me and only blood gives me all the things I need to survive.”
“Solid food makes her vomit,” Iain said quietly. “So we’ll claim she has dietary issues and I’ll feed her in private. Which brings me to the reason we’re here, besides the obvious one of spending time with you. But it’ll have to wait until breakfast has been delivered and Gildi is gone.”
“Private,” Selsharra asked.
“Private and I think it’s a clan survival issue.”
“It’s that serious,” Elizabeth asked.
“Let’s wait until after Gildi has come and gone and we can lock the room down,” Iain replied.
A little while later, Selsharra ushered a cheerful Gildi out of the room and secured the door. Iain closed his eyes for a moment. “All right, the room is proofed against scrying at everything except a god level scan and it’ll warn me if a god starts trying to peek. There is a way to block that too but using it can draw their attention because there’s suddenly something they can’t see, which tends to make them curious as to what is being hidden. And if they actually come here, I can’t block them.”
Selsharra picked up her fork. “Why are you and Elizabeth here?”
“Well, I’m here because something needs done. Elizabeth is here because I could really use her help, but I haven’t explained to her what’s going on and asked her to volunteer to help me.” Iain picked up a goblet. “Elizabeth, would you like a snack so you can dine with us?”
“Is that going to be all right with Selsharra? I don’t want to upset her.”
“Can I give her a goblet of my blood?”
Selsharra nodded. “Please join us, Elizabeth.”
Iain held his wrist over the goblet and blood quickly filled it. He handed it to Elizabeth and sat down at his serving of breakfast. “We’re here to do some preplanning. Then I, and hopefully Elizabeth, will be going to the capital and working for a tenday or so at the castle so we can learn the people and the layout in case it becomes necessary to quietly get our hands on the Greenshadow family.” He looked at Elizabeth, who was staring at him in shock. “I want you to come along so you can see what jobs like this entail. I want you to learn about it and then consider a job offer I’ll make if you think you want the post.” He waved at the table. “Please sit and dine with us.”
Elizabeth took the goblet and settled down in a chair next to Selsharra. “I can kill, but you’ve got people like Zareen for that who are much better than I’ll ever be so it’s not that you want me to be an assassin for the clan.”
Selsharra grinned. “You picked another smart one.”
“I’ve had very good luck with that,” Iain said dryly. He smiled at Elizabeth. “And you’re right. I have lots of people who could kill targets for me and who are better at it than you are. I want you for something higher level than that. Bellona is our spymistress. I want you to head up our special operations program. You’d be the person to plan operations like killing or capturing the Greenshadows or specific people who are interfering with our plans involving Selsharra or other projects like that. You may have to work to make it look like they died accidentally or leave evidence to direct blame towards someone we want to be given credit for the murder. Sometimes it’ll just be an unsolved killing and, occasionally, we’ll want our enemies to know we killed someone specific. You’d primarily work with Bellona, Daya and Theodora but you’d answer to me or whoever is the Grey at the time. You’ll also work with April to put together a training program for some of the people who will be working for you as well as Marguerite for anything that’s inside her sphere of responsibility.”
Elizabeth took a swallow from her mug. “You wouldn’t be considering me for this if you didn’t think I could do it. I’ve never had a real job like Bellona or Branwyn did.”
“You can do this job and well.” Iain gave her a reassuring smile. “This job requires cold blooded practicality. You will have to plan to have people assassinated and, later, you may have to present those plans to me and watch them go operational and get completed. Why didn’t you have more responsibility in Shikarou’s harem? I don’t know. Maybe Branwyn didn’t like you. She wasn’t able to work past her feelings towards people. Shikarou wouldn’t have minded having you do something like this for him, although he’d have said it was unlikely that you’d ever have much to do. He didn’t delegate well.”
Elizabeth nodded as her eyes saddened. “No, he didn’t. Neither did Branwyn and you’re right that she had some animus against me, although I never found out why.”
“You gave Shikarou a baby,” Selsharra said. “Branwyn didn’t. That put you ahead of her in the status rules of the harem in a way that she really wouldn’t like, even if Shikarou wasn’t that involved in his children’s lives.”
“How did you know about that?”
“I worked with Iain’s undead harem for centuries and we knew I would eventually meet you and the others. I was briefed on everyone in his family to keep me from accidentally causing some kind of incident between Iain’s living women and his undead ones.”
“Is there someone in the undead harem doing what Iain wants me to do?”
“No.” Selsharra looked thoughtful. “If I understand my twee’s explanation of what Iain wants, you would be doing a lot of contingency planning. Most of it would never be used and so you wouldn’t get status for doing something successfully. Because of their nature and their competitiveness, the pokegirls of the undead harem could not do such an unglamorous job unless Iain assigned it to one of them and forced them to do it.”
“Iain, what happens if I turn down the offer?”
“Nothing. Only the three of us will ever know I made it to you. My feelings for you won’t change and I hope your feelings for me wouldn’t change.”
Elizabeth looked thoughtfully at him. “Bellona’s new job is anything but ceremonial. She’s busy as hell and loving every minute of it. Candace is the same way with the responsibilities you’ve dropped into her lap. So you’re not just giving us jobs to keep us busy. You really want me to plan out special operations for the clan.”
“And you’ll have to help by predicting who might be a problem we’ll have to deal with in the future. Bellona will gather intelligence, but you’re going to be one of the primary analysts who sifts through it for what we really need. She’ll help, but her job is only going to get busier as certain things begin to mature. Theodora and Daya will help too, but their responsibilities take them out of system and sometimes out of contact a lot more than you are currently aware of.”
“If my job will grow as much as Bellona’s has, eventually I’ll need a staff.”
“You will and you’ll help us select them.”
She nodded. “Take me to the capital and show me what my agents will be doing so I can understand what not to try to require them to do and so keep them alive. I can’t send people who are my responsibility into situations that they cannot survive.”
“Can you send them into situations where it’s critical to the clan and they are less than likely to come out of in one piece?”
Elizabeth didn’t hesitate. “That I can do. If they live, they can be healed. Even if they have to undergo years of therapy afterwards, they can be healed.”
“One last question: Can you stand up to Lucifer or Scheherazade if they feel you’re doing something wrong but I say it needs done?”
“With the understanding that if it becomes physical I’ll end up needing a lot of healing, yes. Combat wise, I am not in their league.” She smiled crookedly. “Yet.”
Selsharra was watching them both intently. “Iain, can I invite Elizabeth to our bed tonight?”
Elizabeth gave her a startled look. “I didn’t know you liked having sex with women?”
“I don’t, not particularly. But your genes will help my family to survive and I think I’d like to watch Iain breed such an intelligent woman before he breeds me.” She smiled. “And I’m learning that Zilvra’s warning was scarily accurate. He is insatiable and I want to see what it will take to wear him out for once.”
Elizabeth’s eyes glittered hungrily. “I like having sex with women almost as much as I like having sex with men. You’re very pretty and I find you desirable.”
“You are my sister. I am willing to help you fulfill that want.”
“You just said you don’t like having sex with women.”
“Due to the circumstances of my society, sometimes that’s all the sex that’s available, and I have a higher than average sex drive. Sex with women can be quite enjoyable. It’s just not what I look for first when I’m horny.”
Elizabeth frowned. “What circumstances?” She looked at him. “Iain?”
“On this world and many other Faerun analogs, the sex ratio for elves is four females are born for each male. Males grow up being taught that it’s their responsibility to spread their genes as widely as they can, but married families want their men to only breed inside the family and single males are often quite busy. A lot of time they are unavailable, especially for women of rank who are expected to be careful which genes they try to cross with. Situational bisexuality is common in the women in elven society. There would probably be a lot more half elves being born but elves are also seriously into blood purity.”
Elizabeth frowned. “What about birth control for those poor women who don’t have access to our Iain?”
Selsharra shook her head. “Because of the population situation and our low birth rate, birth control is frowned upon heavily by society. Pregnancy is encouraged and is seen as something wonderful when it happens.”
“That’s a lot of bastards being born.”
Now it was Selsharra’s turn to frown. “Bastards?”
“There is no concept of a bastard in elven society,” Iain explained. “Descent among the elves is matrilineal. If King Hexidar were to somehow get Selsharra pregnant, the child would be of the Greystarr line and not a Greenshadow. It would never be considered for the throne even if all of the Greenshadows died and it survived. It actually makes his situation rather complicated because he is the king since his mother had no daughters and, technically, his line ends with him. Our children will be of the Greystarr line too, but the Greystarrs are clan and are still Greys, if only by definition. Selsharra evens says she’s Selsharra Grey from time to time, but it’s really a deception on her part to keep from identifying herself with the old royal line until she’s decides she’s ready to become a princess again. The nomenclature when she was alive would have named her as Her Highness Selsharra of Greystarr, Princess of Evermeet, Duchess of Ty’athalael.”
Selsharra had been eating steadily and put down her fork on her nearly empty plate. “To keep the throne in the Greenshadow line, the young Heixadar married his cousin, Irasatra. From what I understand, they were forced to marry to keep the Greenshadow line on the throne. The Greenshadows have done that once before. I’ve been told it’s a loveless marriage, but I didn’t get that impression when Iain and I had a private court with them. Their daughter, Krisraralla, will return normalcy to the court when she becomes queen and will be able to choose from among the approved nobles for her consort. But if she takes lovers, as many queens do, no matter who the sire is, all of the children will be Greenshadows.”
“As another example,” Iain added, “Thefaren, the king of Keltormir, married a third cousin who was a Maerdrym and therefore of the royal line of Keltormir. That way the Merdrym’s kept the throne. What was unusual was that he’d been introduced to the idea of primogeniture by some humans and liked it for his son so much that he broke with tradition and instituted it. Shatris should have been his heir and not Ralorik.”
Elizabeth nodded and then frowned again. “But Iain said all of his children are Greys.”
“No, I said that all of the children out of the women I love are my children,” Iain said. “Descent in the clans is matrilineal too. Technically, I am the last of the Greys unless my sisters have children. But even then, as far as inheritance and whatnot goes, my part of my line ends with me. And clan leaders are usually female, so we’re an outlier in that too. The other clans won’t openly look down on us because I’m its head, but they will be cautious in dealing with us. Men are usually considered to be too violent to be in positions of overall authority.”
“What’s the proportion of men to women in clan society?”
“Elves are one in five or twenty percent. The clans are slightly worse and the proportions are one in six or roughly seventeen percent. That’s why there are a lot of group and plural marriages in clan society. A woman finds a good guy and, to help keep him away from women she doesn’t approve of, invites her sisters or cousins or best friends to meet him. Outsider women meet the family and essentially audition for the right to try and seek the man’s favor.”
“It sounds like it’s remarkably similar to the harem dynamic you have with your women,” Elizabeth observed.
Selsharra nodded as she picked up her cup of tea. “It sounds like that because it is. While, on first view, it seems odd that Ava would invite Iain to get involved with Kasserine because she’s her mother, it was socially acceptable because Kasserine was more of Ava’s best and only elven friend than she is her mother. Even with that, she’s also introduced Iain to her absolute best friend in the hopes that she also joins the family, even if it’s rather unusual in this case since her very best friend is the moon horse mare Dancer.”
Elizabeth smiled amusedly at Iain. “It’s not that unusual if you consider that Ava knows Iain could get Dancer pregnant.” Selsharra looked curiously at her. “He’s already admitted he’s fertile as a dragon horse since he intends to breed Golden Cloud. Dancer has seen his dragon horse form and approves very highly of it. Her society doesn’t normally involve marriage, but she’d be his mare and bear his foals if he’d be her stallion.”
Iain stared at her for several seconds. “You’re right. I am such an idiot not to see that. I should have put you to work for me as soon as you showed up.”
“You were smart not to. I’d have said no then,” Elizabeth replied. “I was grieving and I wouldn’t have believed I could have made a difference in anything, much less something this important.”
“And now,” Selsharra asked, “you believe you can?”
“To be honest, I had never considered if I could do something like this or not since I’ve never been asked that question. What has changed is that I have been here long enough to know that Iain values me for who I am as well as what I can do. Nobody in Haven valued me for any of that, not after Shikarou’s tamer career ended. What’s more important than that is that I know that Iain would never offer someone a job because he wanted to watch them fail at it. Especially not a job like this. Every decision I make and every plan I offer could put the clan’s continued existence at risk. The contingencies that I would be planning would only be activated if and only when necessary to keep something from becoming an emergency or because it’s already an emergency. If my plans are never used, that’s a good sign that we have managed to keep things from becoming that desperate somewhere. Under those circumstances, I can happily live with them never being used.”
“Iain, I repeat my request to allow Elizabeth to join us in bed. She is almost as intelligent as my family is and the sooner you add her blood to our line, the better.”
Elizabeth turned to Iain. “I think it could be fun. Well?”
“Can I have my fangs back tonight? I want proper fun.”
He nodded. “You can.”
She grinned. “When’s bedtime?”
“When we get inside, we’re going to go to the chamberlain’s office,” Iain said as they stood some distance from the palace. “I’ll give him a scroll I have which will explain what’s going on to him. It’s enchanted and will make him do what I want him to, which is send us to the housekeeper with a note that we’re hired to work for her. If the spell doesn’t work, I have a contingency in place, but it’s only an option because of who I am and it’s not one that your future agents would normally have available.”
“I understand, Leocan.” Iain’s new name was Leocan Spiritcloud and Elizabeth was his wife, Enbella. “If there aren’t that many males around, there won’t be many in the household staff. Are you going to have to fuck the housekeeper?”
“You don’t sound that excited about it.”
“I have women that I like and want to have sex with. Sometimes I meet a woman and would like to have sex with her. This one I’ve never met; I don’t know her and she’s not important to me except that she’s part of the mission.”
“Do your best to rock her world.”
Iain glanced at her. “Are you sure you want me to do that?”
“She’ll be more likely to keep you around and that’s the goal.”
“True and yes, I’ll bed her if I must. Now let’s go.”
Caroneth Fargaze looked up when the quiet knock sounded on his door. “Open!” It opened to reveal a male and female moon elf dressed as commoners. Each was wearing the royal insignia on a broach. “Enter and state your business with me.”
They entered the room and the male held out a scroll. “Lord Caroneth, I was told to present this to you and that it would explain why we are here.”
Caroneth took the scroll by the end and managed not to react when the weight slid down the tube and into his palm. A glance showed it was a small leather sack and his experienced hand told him it was filled with coins. The weight suggested gold. Nobles would have given him gems, but it was nice to know these two knew the proprieties of civilized behavior. So few commoners did.
He tucked the bag in his desk, broke the seal on the scroll and opened it. He quickly scanned the contents before looking up at the two of them. “What are your names?”
“I am Enbella Spiritcloud,” the woman said. “This is my husband, Leocan.”
Caroneth’s eyes lingered on Enballa’s chest before he realized what he was doing. “You two are to be employed at the castle. Your behavior now reflects on the Crown. You will report to the housekeeper for your assignments.” He wrote something on a small piece of parchment, sanded it and then folded it before sealing it with some wax from a candle and stamping it with a seal that he kept on his desk. “Her name is Gildove Nollos. Give this to her.” He held it out to Enbella, who took it.
“Thank you, Lord Caroneth. I bid you a good day,” she said and motioned for Leocan to come with her.
Gildove Nollos was a sun elf a few inches shorter than Elizabeth and seemed older, although she didn’t look any older than early adulthood, but then elves stopped physically aging until they were much older. She came rushing up with a slightly harried air about her, brushing at something that was in her hair. “I was told you needed to see me, sir and madam.”
“Mistress Gildove,” Elizabeth held out the parchment. “Lord Caroneth sent us to you.”
Gildove made no move for the note, instead looking them both up and down. “You don’t wear any insignia but the royal one. Lord Caroneth sent you to me but who sent you to him?”
“We have no ties to any other family,” Iain said easily. “We’re commoners who are here to work hard and do our jobs.”
Gildove’s features relaxed and she suddenly seemed vastly amused. “Hard working, you say? I could certainly use more of that. What are your names?”
“This is Enbella and I’m Leocan.”
Gildove looked back and forth between them. “Are you two together?”
Elizabeth nodded. “He’s my husband.”
“Is it just the two of you or is there more to your family?”
“It’s just us,” Elizabeth hesitated, “for now.”
Gildove frowned. “His Majesty doesn’t like to see pregnant women at the castle. Staff who become pregnant are dismissed.”
“I’m not pregnant,” Elizabeth said. She and Iain had discussed how to present themselves and this wasn’t unusual for young couples blinded to the realities of court life. “And I don’t intend to become pregnant while we are at the castle unless my family can support my not being a servant here.”
“You are looking to add to your family,” Gildove said slowly. “Here?”
“We are going to work here,” Elizabeth said. “I am not going to refuse to consider someone because they work here.”
Gildove looked at Iain and deliberately looked him up and down. “You’re older than she is. That’s unusual.”
“I was married before. She’s dead. Enbella was one of the few women in the area who was willing to give me the time I needed to grieve my wife’s death and not try to worm her way into my heart and life while I was in mourning. I appreciated the gesture and remembered it when I was ready to be with someone again.”
“That was very wise of her,” Gildove said as she looked Iain over again.
Offer me to her.
Elizabeth managed not to react when Iain’s voice sounded in her head and quickly checked around them to make sure they were alone. “Mistress Gildove, being the housekeeper here at the castle must be a very stressful position. You must balance the needs of everyone here in the castle with the staff you have and you also have to deal with whatever the nobles want when they decide they want something. Leocan is very good at helping me to relax after a stressful day. He could help you to relax too. If you would like.”
Gildove raised an eyebrow. “My job is always stressful,” she said. “Will he always be available to help me relax?”
“Let’s see how relaxed you are after a single night with him,” Elizabeth replied. “Once you have decided that you like being that relaxed, we can discuss how often he can be available to help.”
Gildove nodded. “Leocan, how are you with animals? My responsibilities include the castle apiary and the dovecote. My animal tender fell off the ladder in the dovecote and broke both of her legs. The dovecote has been unmanageable since and both His and Her Majesties like pigeon eggs with their breakfasts. It reflects poorly upon me and upon the household if they don’t get what they want.”
“I can work with animals. Will I also be the beekeeper?”
“She handled those too. Do you have any experience with beekeeping?”
Iain nodded. “I do. When I harvest, will I be extracting the wax or will the candlemaker?”
“You will. The wax is used for many things and the candlemaker will try to keep it all if she’s involved in collecting it.” She brushed at her hair again.
“Hold still.” Iain moved behind her and she froze as he touched her hair. “You were in the dovecote?”
“Someone has to collect the eggs. I tried but it didn’t go well.”
Iain stepped back, wrapping up something in a piece of cloth he’d pulled from his pouch. “All the droppings are gone and I didn’t mess up your hair. Let’s see if the pigeons can tolerate me.”
Gildove turned and headed off. “Come with me.”
The dovecote was on the uppermost floor of the castle and was perched on the southernmost side. It was made of the same material as the rest of the building, rectangular and three stories tall. A single door led into it and horizontal slits on each story let the pigeons have access.
Gildove pointed at a large window in a different tower. “That’s the royal chambers. When the castle was built, the queen wanted to watch the pigeons coming out to feed. Her Majesty likes it too and will often be watching when you’re working. Keep that in mind. Don’t bring anyone up here for sex because the queen doesn’t like watching that.”
“I’d think the pigeon droppings would be enough of a deterrent,” Elizabeth noted as she looked around them.
“With your husband,” Gildove said bluntly, “there are five men in the entire housekeeper’s staff of nearly a hundred. There are four men in the kitchen staff of fifty and one in the smithy. There are many men in the castle guard, but most of them don’t spend much time inside the castle. Some of the staff would roll in pigeon dung if it got them laid, especially by someone new. Of the five men I do have here, four of them don’t do much because they can get the other staff to do their work for them if they offer up sex in trade.” Her mouth twisted. “Often they do it when they should be working and then I have two people not doing their jobs. I can’t get rid of them or the staff will riot and the chamberlain will get rid of me since I’m a commoner and much easier to replace than the men would be.”
“At least he thinks you’re easier to replace,” Iain muttered as he opened the door and peered into the dovecote. “He’s probably wrong, but then I haven’t been impressed with his lordship just yet.”
“Leocan,” Elizabeth snapped. “Other than Mistress Gildove, he is our benefactor here!” Leocan doesn’t know him as well as you do!
Iain grinned and chuckled. “You’re right. Mistress, I apologize for insulting Lord Caroneth.”
Gildove smiled at them both. “You’re going to find out that he’s lazy, he’s a tattletale and he’s corrupt. Still, he is our employer and a nobleman.”
Iain began singing softly and slipped into the dovecote, closing the door behind him. He was back a few minutes later with a basket full of pigeon’s eggs. “It needs a lot of work. When were the droppings last cleaned out?”
“I don’t know,” Gildove said. “That was up to the animal tender.” She pointed down the landing they were standing on. “Over there is a crane that’s used to bring up food for the pigeons and send down whatever needs removed. How many eggs did you get?”
“Fifty and I’m not done. I’ll have to talk to the cook and see when she wants the eggs delivered every morning or do I bring them to you?”
“Work things out with the cook,” Gildove said. She looked at his hair. “You don’t have any droppings on you.”
“I was quick and lucky. I’ll wear a hooded cloak or tunic from now on. What is Enbella going to be doing here?”
“She will be placed with the upstairs staff.” Gildove looked at Elizabeth. “The queen is a jealous woman and she wants to have another child. Do not let His Majesty bed you. She wants him to save his seed for her.”
“I won’t.” Elizabeth stole a kiss from Iain. “We can leave Leocan here while you show me our quarters and then where I’ll be working.”
“I’ll be fine,” Iain assured a dubious Gildove. “I go down to find my way out. I need to get a shovel and a broom and a bucket and some rags. Should I drop these eggs off in the kitchen or wait and deliver them tomorrow?”
“Deliver them now. Then they can be used for the evening meal.”
Iain nodded. “I’ll deliver them now. What’s the cook’s name?”
“She is Fasys Reyra.” She looked at Elizabeth. “Come, Enbella.”
Elizabeth stretched luxuriously and draped herself over Iain’s nude form as his cock softened inside her. “Everyone hates me,” she said in a voice filled with satisfaction.
“Everyone? That’s pretty impressive. It’s only been five days.”
“Everyone. Well, except Mistress Gildove.”
“Why does everyone except her hate you?
She gave a throaty laugh. “I have you and they don’t. These walls aren’t as thick or as soundproofed as they look and we’ve been heard having sex.”
Iain chuckled. “We’ve been heard because you’re a screamer. Is that why you refused the pillow I offered to let you bite to muffle you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t care if they hear us but no. My fangs pierce the fabric and the feathers taste terrible. I want to heave when I taste them.”
Iain nodded. “I could use magic to soundproof the room,” he began.
“Don’t you dare!”
He raised his head and looked at her. “I was going to finish by saying that I’m not known to use magic so I shouldn’t do that. I could try to find something that doesn’t taste bad for you to bite into when you orgasm.”
She grinned lazily, showing her fangs. “I tried biting you. You didn’t like it.”
“You sank your fangs and the rest of your teeth into my shoulder and worried at it. That hurt just a whole lot.”
“I apologized,” Elizabeth said cheerfully.
“Only after the third time and I don’t think it was sincere, considering you did it again later that night.”
“I was completely sincere when I apologized. I just lost control again in the moment. You should be pleased you can make me lose control like that.”
He chuckled again. “I actually am.”
“Smart man.” Elizabeth sat up. “Women are starting to come to me about you. What should I do?”
“Stop showing me your tits if you want me to think logically.”
She laughed as she felt him twitch inside her. “You can focus. I’ve seen it.”
His eyes sparkled up at her. “Don’t think about it, just answer. What do you want to do when they come to you about me?”
“It depends on the woman. Some of them have harassed me and I want to laugh in their faces or ignore them. The rest?” She shrugged. “I am a pokegirl and I won’t share if I don’t have to, but I’m starting to realize that Selsharra wasn’t crazy when she said you were insatiable. Were you like this back on Five?”
“I didn’t have anyone like you around then,” Iain said thoughtfully. “My sex life was active when I was with someone, but I’ve been celibate off and on for what I would consider long enough periods of time to prove I’m not insatiable.”
Elizabeth snickered softly. “Gildove remarked on just how relaxing you were for her. She’d like to be that relaxed again.” She settled down on top of him again. “What would you do if I weren’t here with you?”
“In a situation like this, if you weren’t here, I’d establish myself and make the sexual acquaintance of several women, if only to play them off against each other and avoid entanglements that might interfere with my work.”
“I’ve been paying attention,” Elizabeth said. “Gildove is right. The men in the household trade in sex. There is another married couple here and she barters his sexual services out like we did with Gildove.”
“Will it help why we’re here?”
“No, but I think that if I don’t play the game it’ll make people remember us. It’s one of those when in Rome do as the Romans do situations”
“The last thing we do is want to be memorable.”
“I am learning that. I was told about what happened with you in that village in Africa. Will that be an issue here?”
“As long as nobody tries to make me the girl in the relationship, no.”
She smiled. “What if I wanted to do that to you?”
“That’s different. We’d have to negotiate out everything beforehand, but nothing is off the table for someone that I care for.”
Her smile vanished and she kissed him soundly. “Thank you.” The smile returned. “I think one of the men, the apprentice to the smith, is trying to sleep with every woman in the castle. He’s already approached me, suggesting that he could make me,” she grinned, “more relaxed than you can.”
“What did you do?”
“I told him the truth, which is that I’d have to survive the experience to enjoy it more then I enjoy you and that, if he was that good, I wouldn’t.” She chuckled. “He’s not the brightest person I’ve met here and I think he’s still trying to figure out if that means I want to fuck him or not.”
“Do you want me to talk to him?”
Elizabeth snorted. “I am much stronger than any normal elf can be, Leocan. If he tries to bother me too much, I could break every bone in his body and all he could do is scream.”
“He might conk you on the head with a rock,” Iain pointed out.
“He’s not a rapist. He understands his line ends with him and is trying to spread his genes are far as he can. It’s just his bad luck that I already have much better genes than he can provide available to use for my children.” She grinned and nipped his chin. “Now give me more of them.” She squealed in joy when he laughed and rolled over, putting her under him.
Elizabeth and Iain stopped on the rise and she turned around to look over Leuthilspar. In the distance, the castle they’d spent most of the last four tendays in was still visible. Iain watched her for a moment. “Copper for your thoughts.”
She smiled. “I am glad to have done what I did so I have a better idea of what my agents will be doing, but it was menial, mostly mindless drudgery that I won’t miss in the slightest.” She glanced at him. “You spent the time being crapped on by pigeons and stung by bees. And there was all that time in the kitchen. What were you doing there?”
“I was keeping knives honed. Kitchens are brutal on the edge of a knife, especially the mild steel ones in use around here and the fact that the tables are made of stone and the cutting boards are made of hardwoods so they last longer. Fasys found out that I could properly sharpen knives and hone them and, more importantly, teach other people how to do it and she went to Gildove who promptly rented me to her.”
“Did you fuck her?”
“She’s got children already and is not interested in having more of them, so no.” He waited as she continued to look at the city. “The job requires us to walk away and vanish. Do you want to stay?”
“No, I was just remembering the one bright thing out all of this.” She took his hand. “I got to spend a month with you. While I learned you definitely need more than one woman for your lusts, it was great trying to wear you out. I learned a lot of other things about you and Candace and Bellona are going to be so jealous they might explode.”
“We also have almost complete plans for the castle and its grounds as well as schedules for many of the notables that we might have to get our hands on,” Iain added. “We completed the mission.”
“We did.” She squeezed his hand. “Will we get more time together like this?”
“We’ll figure something out.”
“Good.” She tugged on his hand and they headed away from the city. “If you’re so horny all the time, how do you manage when you’re off on some of these things you do? April said that you’re alone for some of them.”
“I deal with it as best I can. That’s all any of us can do in a situation we don’t want to be in but can’t get out of. The funny thing, at least to me, is that I wasn’t like this before I met Scheherazade. Oh, I was always sexually active when I could be, but not like this. I think it’s an adaptation to allow me to keep all of my ladies at least moderately happy with me.”
“Do you have that much sex now?” She laughed. “Of course you do, starting with me before breakfast and continuing on until the end of the day.”
“I didn’t want my ladies to end up like a lot of harems do where the tamer gradually reaches a point where she only has regular sex with her favorites and everyone else gets whatever time the alpha schedules for them. I also wanted to make sure that I’m not isolated from any of you, so I make time to go and seek out the company of each of you on a regular basis.” He grinned. “That and I enjoy it.”
“As one of the group that fell into the definition of everyone else in my previous harem, I approve of that intent.”
“Good. How about you teleport us to Selsharra’s and we can brief her on what’s been going on?”
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “She and I have been talking daily via twee. I’m sure you have too.”
Iain chuckled. “Yes, I’ve been talking to her. But you and I need to spend the next several days documenting what we’ve done. And I need to draw up the maps we made of the castle and the surroundings. We didn’t dare write anything down since they could have searched our quarters any time they wanted. That kind of evidence of what we were doing could have been very bad for us.” He gave her a serious look. “The post mission, where the work is documented is more important than the mission itself. Unless we’re doing daily memory uploads, and most of the time your people won’t be able to do that, we have information that nobody else does. That absolutely must be passed on and doing it immediately keeps everything fresh and keeps there from being some kind of accident where the information gets lost.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“Good. Do you want the job we discussed at Selsharra’s castle?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and nodded. “Yes.”
Iain watched the gate open and carefully checked the coordinates as it stabilized. Caintigern and Nightraven watched from where they sat as he stuck the pole with the camera and the probe on it through the gate.
“You should use Fourth World,” Caintigern said.
“He is right to use Fifth World as an exit,” Nightraven countered. “It is uninhabited when you were on the throne. Settlement only began during the five hundredth year of Tharilat II. Tharilat I ruled for over a thousand years after killing the new Queen of the royal bloodline after you abdicated, so Iain won’t be discovered. Don’t forget there were people who looked for gates from other dimensions coming to the People.”
Iain pulled the pole back and closed the gate. “Setting up on Fifth World will allow me to launch satellites to First World and verify that I’m on target regarding the timeline for what we want to do. I don’t know where the ground is but coming out in the air is fine as long as it’s thick enough to hold me up when I’m flying down to land. I want to use as little magic as possible to keep from drawing attention to me just in case the time is way off.” He accessed the camera with his phone and the probe with his twee. “It’s breathable, the pressure is good, the temperature is about the same as Texas in August and the location is about seven hundred meters in the air. The ground shows a stream or small river and lots of blue trees. As long as there isn’t a colony of small predators waiting to mob me when I exit, that’ll work nicely.”
“Is there such a creature on Fifth World,” Caintigern asked.
“According to the records available,” Iain said as he collapsed the rod and began putting everything back in his explorer’s pack, “there’s a predatory flying creature about the size of a fruit bat. It’s called a lakkarhat. It can be found in roving colonies that can number in the hundreds and they’ll decimate an area of life before moving on. I don’t know if their teeth can penetrate my scales and I don’t intend to find out. However, I do suspect their teeth can penetrate my skin if I’m not in a dragon form and they jump me. If I see a swarm of them I’ll evade if possible. If not, I’ve got magic that can make them ignore my presence, so I don’t think they’ll be a problem.”
“Why not wipe them out if you encounter them,” Caintigern asked.
“Because I feel I’ll live longer by not turning everything into a life or death struggle,” Iain replied. “It’s worked really well so far and it’s a plan I’m going to stick with.”
“Some drakes would call you a coward,” Caintigern noted.
“And how does the opinion of some coddled dragon matter to me,” Iain asked. “I’ve been places and done things they can’t even begin to imagine. I have two of the most powerful and beautiful mates ever and they don’t think I’m a coward. Their opinion matters to me, not that of some drake who thinks a challenge is deciding what to eat for his next meal.” He smiled thinly. “And after this drake challenges me to a battle to the death after I ridicule him to his face and I tear his throat out, the other drakes will decide to find someone else to try and make fun of.”
Caintigern clapped her hands together. “Yes!”
“You will have a different problem after that,” Nightraven said. “That being the dragonesses who will flock to you and try to claim you.”
“That’s going to be an issue no matter what,” Iain said. “Even if I make myself smaller like you suggested, I have a lot more experience in violent death than most of the People and it’s going to show when someone challenges me. Hopefully, I’ll have made contact with the younger you and she’ll chase the dragonesses away for me.”
“If you are meeting me, do not become the smaller form that Nightraven recommended,” Caintigern said. “I did not appreciate deception then and would not take you hiding your true strength as something admirable when I discovered the truth. I would feel it was a lie aimed at me.”
“I’ll do it.” He stretched. “Now I’ve got to go home and put together everything I’ll be taking with me for this trip. I’ll let you know when I go to Fifth World. Once I’m established, you can join me there if you want and we can proceed to the next step.”
Marguerite stood with Iain in the predawn darkness and watched as Ninhursag swung onto the saddle on the back of Carlotta, the Unicorn that was going to be her steed. In a motion that brought to mind the rising of a tidal wave in the distance, Ninhursag’s troops mounted their steeds, a mix of fast centaur breeds. Nearly two thousand pokegirls waited in front of Marguerite, arguably the largest all pokegirl army since the Revenge War.
Iain and Ninhursag looked at each other silently for several seconds before the Elfqueen smiled. “I’ll be careful.”
“You’ll be as careful as you can,” Iain corrected her. “But clan leaders lead from the front. It was never easy for me to send someone on a mission into harm’s way and not go with them. Sending you is even harder, but this is your job.”
“I’ve got Arianrhod on standby if we get bogged down at all,” Ninhursag said.
“You have Daya on standby if you need her,” Marguerite interjected. “Use her.”
Ninhursag chuckled. “I don’t have any choice, do I?”
“What do you mean?”
“Iain has probably already given Daya and Theodora a weapons free order and authorized them to act before I ask for their aid.”
“Everyone comes home alive,” Iain said. “You’ll have to fight but keep that in mind.”
“I will.” She nudged the Unicorn’s flanks and the entire force moved out. Behind her, the troops followed, the individual companies coalescing together as they moved.
Marguerite looked at Iain. “They’ll be fine.”
“It never goes according to plan,” Iain replied. “We’ve planned for everything we can think of and I think they’ll survive. If I didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t be going, but some of them are going to get badly hurt. Some of them will die. Oh, it may not happen today, but this is just the beginning and there will be more in the future. It’s inevitable.” He took Marguerite’s hand. “Now we go inside and start the hardest part of this job.”
Ninhursag and her troops descended the bridge over the Louisiana Canal and entered Stile. There, the unit broke up into its component companies. Half the force headed north and the other half, including Ninhursag’s company, headed east. As soon as they exited Stile, the units increased speed from a canter to a gallop. Quickly they disappeared from the astonished sight of Stile’s residents.
A platoon of the Sisterhood’s security teams had entered Stile the day before, ostensibly on a training mission to scout the area and set up a bivouac in an empty field. Now they waited. As soon as they detected the first radio transmission from inside the town they sprang into action and split up to round up all the spies that had been revealed.
The man behind the desk looked up when the door to his office swung open without warning and three women entered. His eyes narrowed when he realized that they were pokegirls wearing uniforms he didn’t recognize, heavily armed and that one of them was pointing a large caliber assault weapon at him while the second covered the doorway. The third stopped and looked at him. “John Kennon?”
Kennon leaned back in his chair. “I am Governor Kennon. What is the meaning of this intrusion?”
"I am Colonel Adriana of Grey Clan. You will surrender the Indigo province of Louisiana to me immediately.”
Kennon paled. He’d dreaded that this day might come after Savoie’s warning. He managed to project an air of calmness. “What are the terms of our surrender?"
A spark of anger kindled in his mind. “And if I refuse?”
Adriana’s face was impassive and her eyes were as cold as liquid helium. “Anything you say from this instant on except ‘I surrender’ will be a refusal to comply. If you refuse, I will kill you. I already have your lieutenant governor and he will do what I want.”
Kennon looked into Adriana’s eyes and believed her. “I surrender myself and Louisiana to you.”
“I swear that I surrender myself and Louisiana to you.”
Adriana nodded. “A wise choice. Send out word to everyone else in the province. Resistance will be met with overwhelming and lethal force.”
Kennon believed that, too. “I’ll make sure that word gets sent out.”
“We will be leaving. If a resistance is organized against us, you will be an oath breaker and forsworn.”
Kennon frowned. “You can’t hold me responsible for the actions of someone who refuses to acknowledge my surrender.”
“You are their leader. Lead them.” Adrianna said something in a language that Kennon didn’t recognize and the three pokegirls left his office.
A moment later the leader of his security contingent ran into the room. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “They took us by surprise and held us at gunpoint while their leader came down here. Are you all right?”
Kennon nodded. “I’m fine, Doug. Get my secretary in here. I’ve got some messages that need to go out immediately. And get Savoie in here soonest. I need to see how I can salvage this situation.”
The hologram lit and Iain smiled at the two people looking back at him. “Lorena, David. You’re calling because you want to know what’s going on, right?”
Lorena nodded to Iain, Marguerite and Gormlaith in turn. “That’s right. What are you doing in Louisiana?”
The Unicorn stood. “Good afternoon, President Robinson and Vice President Lyons. I’ll start with a summary of events since this morning. Grey Clan ended the unofficial cease fire with Indigo and commenced unrestricted military operations against the league at 0500 hours. We have secured the land we are now claiming, which contains the entirety of the Indigo province of Louisiana as well as the northwestern part of the Mississippi province to just east of the city of Jackson near the town of Pelahatchie.”
David Lyons shook his head slowly. “You declared war on the Indigo League?”
“No, Vice President Lyons,” Marguerite said. “We have finally responded to the war that Indigo declared against us.”
“Marguerite,” Lorena asked. “Why are you giving this briefing and not Iain?”
“I have the answers to the questions you’re likely to ask. If you two weren’t friends of ours, you’d be talking to Gormlaith as the clan’s PAO, who would have given you a generalized press release that’s available for public consumption. But she can’t handle the technical questions you might come up with and, as the primary architect of the current operation, I can.”
Lorena blinked. “You did this?”
“I am the head of our Department of War,” Marguerite said simply. “I had a lot of help with this plan, but essentially, yes. It’s remarkably similar to what I was supposed to be doing for Scott during the latter part of the Revenge War.”
Lyons looked past her. “Iain?”
“There are only so many hours in a day, David,” Iain said. “And I can only do so many things during them. I’ve started delegating to the people who can do the job at least as well as I might and, in some cases,” he smiled fondly at Marguerite, “probably a damned sight better than I ever could.”
“An excellent compliment and nicely delivered,” Marguerite murmured. “Madam President, the land we’re claiming will give Grey the necessary buffer space to protect the clan’s personnel from more unwanted attacks from Indigo. It will also allow Texas to focus its attention on developments in the land Texas recently acquired from Sunshine and the plans that Sunshine and the other leagues might have with your country.”
Lorena nodded slowly. “What about the people living in the land you’ve just conquered?”
“The ones who do not wish to live under our authority will be relocated to Indigo or Texas, depending on their wishes,” Marguerite said crisply. “We will immediately move to begin imposing clan law on the rest of them. There will be a small transitional period while our laws are published and digested and then clan law will become supreme. Their children will be raised as clan and will eventually take their place with us. Any adults who wish to join the clan will be evaluated for sincerity and happily welcomed into the clan if they truly wish to become Greys.”
Lyons leaned back in his chair. “You were serious with Savoie. Has he called you yet?”
“I’m sure he has tried to but somehow everything between him and me has gone through you, David. It turns out that Gaston doesn’t have my com number. Even if he did, I wouldn’t be taking his calls right now. He’s closeted with Governor Kennon and trying to figure out how to make this turn out for their benefit. I’ll let Kennon stew for a while before I inform him that he has no place in the Grey Protectorate administration that will be replacing the Louisiana government.”
Lorena leaned forward. “What about the people who don’t want to become clan and don’t want to leave?”
“They’ll be outlanders. Any that owned land in Louisiana will be paid for that land and allowed to remain living on it for the rest of their lives, with certain restrictions, but outlanders cannot own clan land. If they don’t cause trouble, they’ll be left mostly alone. They will have to get used to our laws, including the ones about who is and who is not a person and their children will have to attend clan schools and receive a clan education.”
Lyons was watching Iain closely. “What about the Indigo spies you will eventually have to deal with.”
“We expect outlanders to spy on us,” Marguerite said. “They will not be allowed access to our sensitive areas or our secrets. Any caught will face the standard punishment for outlanders, which is lashes. Those who deceive us and become clan will be subject to clan law and will be executed for treason.”
David looked surprised. “You are more severe with your people?”
Iain nodded. “We are. We expect more from our people and any betrayal on the part of one of our clanswomen will be considered a much more heinous crime than if an outlander perpetrated it.”
Lorena looked at Gormlaith with a smile. “So why are you here, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Not at all, Madam President,” the Sidhe replied. “There will be times when Iain and the other leaders of our clan will be unavailable for meetings like this. At those times, I will be your contact within the clan. I am here so I know what you know so that I can’t accidentally reveal anything you haven’t yet learned.”
Lorena chuckled. “I am so glad that I won’t be president for much longer.”
David sighed. “And I’m not sure I want your job anymore.”
Marguerite laughed. “I don’t even have to be present to know that’s a lie, David.”
“I take it the official part of this meeting is over,” Iain said. “Is there anything else?”
“Indigo is going to want their land back,” Lyons stated flatly. “What then?”
“We expanded to the smallest buffer that we feel allows us the time to react to a thrust at our home,” Marguerite said. “None of that gets returned to Indigo, and that is our stance if they try to negotiate with us for its return.”
“And if they try a military solution,” Lyons asked.
“We will destroy the attackers and then we will expand again,” Marguerite said. She smiled. “We are drawing upon the life experiences of everyone in the clan. Many of us have longevity and have been doing this sort of thing for centuries. Even if we didn’t have support from Theodora and Daya, Lucifer and Ninhursag know how to do more with pokegirls than I have ever seen. If I’d known we could do everything they’ve shown me we can do, I would have won the Revenge War even if Scott didn’t really want me to.” Her smile turned cold. “Not even he understood the full potential of what he’d created. The training programs that the Controllers set up under Scott’s authority were not designed to maximize our utility either. More and more I am coming to believe that Iain is right and the Bloody Flu was the opening phase of his true plans and that Cowslip was really what he intended to happen all along. He would have found it horrifyingly amusing if he could get men to wage war on other men for the chance to have pokegirls, his creations that they had derided and destroyed, to breed with after the human women became infertile. Nothing else makes any sort of logical sense if you consider that there is no evidence that he was responsible for the Red Plague.”
“That is presuming that Scott was logical,” Gormlaith said quietly. “Humans are fragile and easy to drive insane. I have seen it done by other fey in a remarkably short time. The histories that I have read about him suggest he was unstable from the beginning. Some authors even propose that insanity was the primary source of his brilliance.” Her eyes met Lyons’. “It is remarkable to note that James Scott, with his tremendous ego and narcissistic personality, never authorized a biography of his life to be written. There were five unauthorized biographies written about him, all telling different versions of his life that the authors claim he had confided to them. He denounced all five of them after they were published. More interestingly, all five authors died in various accidents soon after their work was released. That is the unstated reason that the sixth biography of him was never released, that the author feared for his life. Finally, most interestingly, there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that Scott did confide in all of them and told each of them a different version of how his life unfolded, and that he actually encouraged at least some of them to publish that story before the denunciations.”
Iain grinned. “As you can see, we’ve been doing some brainstorming about how Scott thinks. After all, if I can understand him enough, I might be able to figure out where he went to ground and capture him.”
“Why,” Lyons asked.
“He’s a geneticist, a mage and arguably crazier than Nero. That makes him a danger to the people that are important to me. Not a threat, mind you, but an actual and active danger to us all. I don’t like things like that and I want to end that danger and him as quickly as possible.”
“Iain, we’re getting off topic,” Gormlaith said softly. “And this is not a social call.”
Iain smiled. “And right you are. Do either of you have any more questions about what we just did to Indigo?”
“Do you have any plans to expand more in the near future,” David asked.
“We couldn’t tell you if we did,” Marguerite interrupted as Iain opened his mouth. “You are a friend of ours, but you are still an outlander until you realize what you’re missing.”
Lyons smiled. “I don’t think the people would like the President or Vice President of Texas to be clan, Marguerite.”
“I have read your constitution and your laws,” Marguerite countered. “You must be a Texan. You can be clan and still be a Texan. When you asked Iain if he was interested in running for public office, by suggesting he could be elected as Vice President, we checked to see if he was qualified. There is nothing forbidding someone with dual citizenship from being elected.” She smiled. “Not even someone with dual citizenship with Texas and, say, Indigo.”
“That was by design,” Lorena said. “When we wrote our new constitution, we wanted the people of Texas to be able to choose whatever the majority truly wanted. And the President of Texas has little real power, as we all understand.” She looked at Iain. “Your official position as the Grey is that you have no plans to invade Indigo more?”
“And if it wasn’t the truth, operational security would require you to give me that answer no matter what?”
“I can see why you wanted to resign from the Rangers and I thank you for doing so before doing this,” she said. “It’ll help to keep any fallout from falling on Texas.”
“I was born a Texan,” Iain noted. “In my heart of hearts I’ll always be one, no matter where I am or who I become. If I can, and if it doesn’t cause problems with my family, I’ll try to protect Texas.”
“I’ve got one more question,” David said. “Why is your flag a dragon?”
Iain smiled. “I used to play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. I like dragons. And while I like the Texas flag, I think stripes and stars have been done to death.”
Lyons laughed. “True. Thank you for arranging to talk to us, Iain.”
“You and Lorena are our friends, David,” Iain replied. “Even if you’re not clan.”
David looked at Lorena and back at Iain. “You seem to be talking all of your friends into joining your clan. I know about Lorena and Aaron. Am I next?”
“You’re not next, David. We don’t have a next. But yes, I intend to give you that offer when I think you and Maisie are ready to hear it.”
“Fair enough,” David said.
“Now, I’m afraid I have to be somewhere.”
“April’s tender mercies?”
Iain grinned. “Yeah. Goodbye.” He ended the connection.
“They responded well to the news,” Gormlaith said.
“They suspected we’d eventually do something like this,” Marguerite looked at Iain. “And they like you.”
“They respond well during calls like that because I don’t lie to them,” Iain explained. “They might not like what I tell them, but they at least know it’s not a lie.”
Iain watched the gate open before turning to Caintigern and Nightraven as he adjusted the straps of his pack. “Any questions before I leave?”
“Be careful,” Nightraven said.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do and I won’t be going anywhere near any of the four inhabited worlds of the People,” Iain replied. “I intend to be very careful.”
Caintigern rose and invaded his personal space to rub her cheeks against his. “My time is coming,” she said quietly. “My womb is empty and you are the drake that will fill it. Come back to me.”
“I intend to.” Iain glanced at Nightraven as he turned to the gate. She was glaring daggers at the back of Caintigern’s head. “I’m coming back for you too.”
She transferred her glare to him and it softened as he smiled at her. “You are determined that we work together.”
“I already explained it. We work together or we probably all die. I don’t want to die. The fact that the mission has changed a little doesn’t mean it has really changed. We are still trying to keep the Royal bloodline on the throne and stop Blacktooth and her followers. The only thing that has changed is that we may be able to keep Princess Stillwater alive while doing so and Nightraven wouldn’t feel she had to become Queen unless she decides she has to kill someone from the Royal family.” He frowned. “How would that work if she’s more powerful than Stillwater?”
“If she is of the Royal bloodline she can challenge for the throne,” Caintigern said. “At that point she effectively becomes a Princess and is challenging the Queen.”
“Your society is, uh, I guess I’ll stick with weird.”
“It is law and custom among the People that has continued from the beginning of our history until now,” Caintigern protested. “You must understand and accept that.”
“I am working with you two to save the system that I understand entirely too well and really wish I didn’t,” Iain said flatly. “I’m going to live in that system so I can do what you want done. I understand it. I refuse to accept it. That will have to be enough for you.”
“Why do you feel as you do,” Caintigern asked as she returned to her seat.
“My daughters with you and Nightraven will be part of this cycle of daughters killing their mothers and, maybe, each other,” Iain said. “Or of grandnieces killing their grandaunts. If nothing else, it is a waste and it is that waste that allowed Blacktooth to take the throne from your daughter. The only thing Blacktooth did wrong, according to law and custom, was in not being a Royal and again in putting her bloodline over the Royal one, necessitating the expungement of the Royal bloodline. If she’d been a Royal, according to law and custom, it would have been perfectly normal for her to murder Stillwater and then become the Queen. Only the fact that she isn’t a Royal makes it wrong, according to law and custom. According to law and custom, Nightraven could kill the you that I am going to contact and become Queen and nothing would be wrong about it.”
He shook his head. “According to law and custom, it would be perfectly acceptable for you to kill the past you that I’m going to meet and retake the throne. And, finally, in the end, I could get to watch you two fight to the death to decide which of you would be Queen.”
Nightraven cocked her head. “You are the strangest drake I have ever known. You claim to detest our society and yet you are helping us to save and preserve it.”
“One of the biggest flaws that I have in my personality is a true sense of honor. It’s a weakness according to the society of the People. It’s often an exploitable weakness in human society. I obligated myself to helping you. My honor demands I fulfil that obligation. And I don’t see either one of you releasing me from it.”
“You do not and you will not,” Caintigern said. “Your help is invaluable. What would you have us do?”
He smiled bitterly. “If only that question really mattered. You’re not going to do what I want unless you decide you want to do it too. I said that I would help you and I will. In the end, what I will probably do is release you two from your oaths to be my mate and then you can seek out drakes who are from the society of the People and who won’t give a shit about what you’re going to do with their children.”
“We have treated you more as an equal,” Caintigern said. “And our oaths included changing the way we would raise our children with you.”
“And you have,” Iain agreed. “I appreciate it, but I don’t expect it to last. You’ll get back among the People and the dragonesses who will flock to you will whisper to you with a multitude of questions about why you allow a drake such latitude. Why haven’t you corrected his behavior? Even if you don’t listen to them, eventually one of them will take it upon herself to make me into what law and custom demands I be and then she’ll be dead and I’ll be in trouble and probably have to flee the worlds of the People.”
“You are going to act like a drake of the People in order to accomplish your part of this mission,” Nightraven pointed out.
“And I have no plans to stay a subservient drake for a single moment I don’t need to after that mission is over,” Iain replied. “Then we’re back to the facts that I am free and I am inferior to no dragoness. Very few dragonesses will accept me being those things like you two have. And since you two can’t stay by my side every second, there is going to be another dead dragoness in my future, she is going to be from among the People and I am going to have to go into exile at that point. It would be easier overall if I accept that and release you two to seek mates from among the society that you understand and prefer.”
Caintigern nodded. “As you say, one thing at a time. The first thing is that we must change the future of the People and ensure their survival. Afterwards we will see what prices must be paid and by whom.”
Iain closed his eyes for a moment. Slowly the tension drained from his body. “You’re right. I’m getting off mission with this discussion and starting out angry at your society and you is not going to make it easier to hide in it. You have done nothing recently to deserve that behavior. I apologize for being antagonistic towards either or both of you.”
Nightraven eyed him for several seconds. “Accepted.”
“I accept your apology,” Caintigern said. “You are still my chosen drake. Be careful.”
“I will. I intend to survive this if at all possible.” He shifted to his small dragon form and zipped through the gate, which closed behind him.
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)