What does Iain Grey do now that he's out of the fire?
(11/18/08 0600 St. Louis, Johto League)
Before the Revenge War, the Red Plague and the destruction of the human race nearly half a million people lived in the greater St. Louis area. Today less than thirty thousand dwelled among the ruins of a once great city and nearly a third of those were pokegirls and therefore almost nonentities in the eyes of the Johto League. Metropolitan St. Louis had been hit just as hard and hosted a hundred and forty thousand people, down from a high of two and a half million. The numbers were relative, however, when it came to locating a particular individual and they made finding the home of William Sanderson almost utterly impossible without Ninhursag’s memories of her child and young adulthood.
Iain watched as his maharani looked around with a lost expression and reflected on the fact that she was over three centuries old and was trying to work from what she remembered of a town that had never actually been the one in which they now stood. She finally gritted her teeth and turned to him. Her bright corn yellow eyes and metallic green hair looked wrong on the face he knew so well. “Everything looks just so familiar, but I can’t remember the details. I should have gotten directions from my mother. I’m sorry.” Belatedly she remembered where they were. “Sir.”
“I should have thought to suggest you do so,” he replied as he watched people watching them. People in St. Louis were used to pokegirls, but Ninhursag was literally head and shoulders above any human and most pokegirls. Her height, her metallic green hair and her impressive figure were garnering unwelcome attention. “You want to leave and talk to her before coming back here?”
She turned and looked south. “Not just yet. Let’s go to the arch first. Sir, I know the store was north of there and I used to go to the park where the arch is when I had some free time. Maybe I can find my way from there.”
He nodded. “It’s worth a try. Lead on.”
St. Louis hadn’t been attacked by any of James’s armies and so the city itself, while in the general disrepair caused by the loss of ninety five percent of its population, was relatively undamaged. That included the famous Gateway Arch, which gleamed brightly as they approached the park in which it sat. Closer inspection, courtesy of the changes Iain had wrought in himself, showed the upper part of it had minor damage and discoloration from feral pokegirls roosting on it and the city’s attempts to drive them off. From what Iain knew, several tamers with flying pokegirls were paid to live or patrol in the vicinity of the park and to engage any pokegirls that attempted to land on or enter the arch or the tunnel inside it. He also knew that the observation deck inside the topmost part of it had been turned into a military watch post during the Revenge War and remained that way under the control of Johto, although now it watched the city for rebel attacks and general unrest along with feral pokegirls instead of looking for approaching pokegirl forces which no longer existed except in tired justifications for the military taxes that were still being levied.
They stopped at a bench on the north side of the park and Iain sat down while Ninhursag began looking around with a faintly troubled expression on her face as she tried to cudgel her memory into obedience. After nearly five minutes had passed she muttered just loudly enough for him to hear. “We’re being watched. The guy in uniform standing near the fountain is staring at us.”
Iain had already seen their observer, but nodded once as he scratched his chin. “Thanks.” The fellow was one of those men with hair so dark that he had five o-clock shadow pretty much perpetually lining his clean shaven jaw. He was middle aged and wore a faded uniform reminiscent of a policeman’s. An automatic pistol of some kind and a truncheon hung from his belt. He and Iain looked at each other for a moment before the man abruptly pushed away from the wall he’d been leaning against and began briskly walking towards them. “And here he comes.”
Ninhursag moved to stand beside Iain as the man stopped in front of him. “I don’t know you, mister. Who are you?”
Iain had been thinking about that since they’d arrived in St. Louis and didn’t hesitate. He kept his tone polite. “I’m Major Austin Drummond and you don’t know me because I’m from the Indigo League. This is my first time in St. Louis.”
The man’s nose rose haughtily. “Major Drummond, you’re not in uniform.”
Iain gave him an ingratiating smile. “That’s because I’m not here in any sort of official capacity. I’m on leave and I’m here on personal business.” Iain’s twee was busy filling Ninhursag in on what he was about to tell the policeman. “Who are you, sir?”
“I’m Officer Duncan.” The man eyed Iain suspiciously. “What business?”
“My sister in law just died and in her will she bequeathed something to a childhood friend. I’m the executor of her estate and got stuck trying to find the man, who was last said to be here in St. Louis. Since I’ve never been in St. Louis before I figured I’d do some sightseeing while I was here. I am wasting my leave on this fool’s errand after all.” He frowned and then smiled as if a thought had just struck him. “I don’t suppose you know a man named Billy Sanderson?”
Iain had learned that most people liked being helpful, especially if they thought they were helping someone they knew. Duncan was no different and the policeman grinned suddenly. “I know William Sanderson. He hates to be called anything other than William.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. I don’t suppose you’d be kind enough to give me directions to his place?”
Duncan nodded and pointed up the northern road. “Go that way a mile or so. He owns a store called the Milwaukee Emporium. You can’t miss it. The entire front is covered with flowering vines.”
“Thank you very much.” Iain motioned Ninhursag to walk with him. “Let’s go.”
“Yes, master.” She waited until they were out of earshot of Duncan before muttering to Iain. “Apparently you can miss it if you’re expecting it to be called Sanderson’s Dry Goods.”
“Dimensional drift strikes again,” he replied quietly.
She cocked her head. “Again?”
“Kerrik picked this world to change because originally in it Typhonna never went to sleep so she eventually destroyed all of the land and thus everyone except water pokegirls and, since there were no humans, they were all feral. His changes involved keeping Typhonna and the other legendary pokegirls from doing much to the environment. On your world Typhonna destroyed everything she historically did, so it’s not surprising that we’ll find changes here from what you, Eve or Dominique knew on your world and what’s happening here. I mean, on your world St. Louis is almost beach front property.”
Abruptly Ninhursag looked startled. “Does that mean everyone on this world owes their life to Kerrik?”
Iain shook his head. “It took Typhonna a couple of generations to destroy it all, so not exactly. He won’t tell anyone what he did, either, so these people will never know that most of their genetic lines were doomed. To them it’ll never happen and they wouldn’t understand if it was explained to them that they owed their future and their children’s futures to someone they will never meet.”
They were quiet for a while as they walked until Ninhursag stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. A hundred meters ahead was an abandoned department store that had the words Milwaukee Emporium painted above the double doors. As reported, the front had lots of vines growing up the wall and windows, but he could see even from here that they looked like they hadn’t been well tended until recently. Whoever was caring for them knew how to slowly prune away the dead parts to keep from shocking the plants too much. Peering closely, Iain could see where the discolored brick façade still showed that originally it had been a Woolworths. “That’s it,” she said. “It’s bigger than the one I grew up in. Now what do we do?”
“I’ve got that present from my sister in law. We’ll go in and give it to him.”
The Elfqueen’s hand tightened. “I thought you were improvising. You better explain that one so I can go along with it.”
“I am improvising, but fortunately I always carry some trade goods and I can give him something out of those items.” Iain thought for a moment. “I’ll give him the Rolex. If he’s the way you and your mother painted him, he won’t ask too many questions over a gift of a Rolex Datejust from the 80s.”
Ninhursag eyed him. “How much is it worth?”
“Today?” Iain shrugged. “I don’t want it so it’s not worth a lot to me, but to someone with a greedy mind it’s probably worth around ten thousand US dollars. If you converted that into credits it would be a million credits although this watch would sell for far more than that in an auction back in Blue. It’s a museum quality piece there.”
The Elfqueen stared at him incredulously. “You’re going to give that to Sanderson?”
Iain smiled thinly. “If things go badly we’ll get it back. If we don’t get it back, it’s worth it to me to find out he is or is not the person you think he is.”
“Is it pretty?”
He blinked. “What does that have to do with anything? It’s a status symbol and, yes, it’s pretty.”
She turned him to face her squarely before releasing his shoulder. “Is it something a clan leader would wear?”
“You know, what I wear is one of the few things I still have some control over. You start trying to dress me and I’ll use hellfire to burn that watch to ash in front of you. Once I start I’ll probably not stop there and just become a naturist for a while.”
Ninhursag chuckled and dropped to her knees so they were nearly the same height as she brushed the dust from his clothes. “You would, too.” She smiled coquettishly as she looked up at him. “So, master, how do you want me to behave?”
Iain kissed her on the nose. “You are just way too fucking cute, you know that?”
She grinned as she got back to her feet. “I’m glad you noticed, although I’d prefer to be beautiful to you.”
“You are heart stoppingly gorgeous. Words cannot describe your beauty. As for behavior, be yourself.”
Her smile faded. “You’re no fun. I’m your only security so I have to be responsible.”
“Yeah, I know.” He headed for the front of the store. Surprisingly, most of the glass frontage to the store was still in one piece, although a few panels on one side had been cracked and taped over to prevent the cracks from spreading. The glass double doors had been replaced with some much more utilitarian wood ones, but the elaborate bronze handles that had originally been on the glass doors had been remounted on the wooden ones. “I don’t want you doing anything impulsive when we meet Sanderson. If you do, the likely response of the people of St. Louis will result in me doing things that I’ll have to listen to Eve and April critique.”
“I know and I won’t.” A bell tinkled sweetly as Ninhursag pulled the door open and waved him ahead of her. The interior had mirrors arranged to send as much light as possible into the depths of the former department store and it looked like a wall had been built to section the front section of the building from the rear. The delightful aroma of a rich vegetable stew or something permeated the air and suggested that the back half of the building was now some kind of dwelling, presumably for Sanderson and his family.
A few seconds after the bell rang a platinum haired near human rabbit came through a door to the back. “Good morning, sir.” Even though it was in the low teens outside and nippy inside she was barefoot and wearing a light green strapless summer dress that stopped at her thighs. Iain’s mind confirmed that she was a Moon Bunny. “Welcome to the Milwaukee Emporium.”
Iain nodded to her. “Good morning, miss. Is this the business of William Sanderson?”
She immediately pointed at a wall. Pieces of paper encased inside picture frames covered part of it. Most of the documents were hand written, but a few looked like they’d come out of a typewriter. “Officer, we have all of our permits posted right there. I assure you that they’re all current.”
He chuckled to cover his surprise. “Miss, I’m not a policeman. I’m not even from Johto. I’m here because my sister in law bequeathed William Sanderson something from her estate. She’s dead now and I’m carrying out the final actions of her will.”
“Oh.” Moon Bunnies were considered the brightest of the bunny breeds, although Iain privately thought the Mini Top was smarter since he knew who they were based on, but even being one of the smartest bunny breeds did not make this one a genius. “What’s bequeathed?”
“It means that she left him a present when she died,” Ninhursag answered for him. “Is he here?”
The Moon Bunny was shorter than Iain so she had to look way up to meet Ninhursag’s eyes. Her brown ones widened in surprise before she shook her head. “No, Master William is out running an errand. He won’t be back until right before dark. I can’t invite anyone to the back so you can’t wait for him here.” She dropped her gaze to the countertop between them. “I’m sorry; sir, but I have my instructions.”
“What’s your name?”
She looked up at his gentle tone and relaxed at what she saw in his eyes. “Sir, I am Renee. I belong to Master William.”
“I am Arthur Drummond and when would it be good for us to return?”
“I shall inform Master William of your visit, Master Arthur. As far as I know he has no plans to go anywhere tomorrow so it would be best if you came back in the morning, sir. Unfortunately, I can’t promise that he’ll be here. He only tells his schedule to my alpha, Heather.”
I know nothing about anyone named Heather in Sanderson’s harem, Ninhursag said through their twees. Is this more of your drift?
Iain shrugged. “Well, it’s a pretty valuable gift so I have to try a little more before I can give up and keep it. I’ll come back in the morning, Renee, and we’ll see what happens then.”
“Have a nice day, Renee.” He turned and headed outside, followed by his maharani. Once he was sure they were out of earshot of even enhanced hearing he glanced back at her. “The presence of another pokegirl is likely his attempt to replace the one he lost. There’s no information from your mother that he had a third pokegirl when he lost his first alpha. Could this be the Ingénue?”
“Her name was Tricia and I was old enough to remember when she arrived. She tried to steal some candy from the store and he claimed her in recompense from her owner.”
“For candy? That’s a bit steep of a fine.”
Ninhursag shrugged. “He took a liking to her and it gave him an opportunity to try and get more money from her owner. I think he didn’t expect the guy to give her up so easily.”
“Did she have some kind of problem?”
“Not that I could ever see. I have no idea why he gave her up but he did.” Ninhursag looked thoughtful. “As an adult looking back, I’d say that Tricia was bland. She was pretty but she had the personality of oatmeal.” She frowned. “And she’d rat us out in a heartbeat, but William liked that. He was happier if he had a justification for what he did to us, not that it’d stop him if he didn’t.”
“Are we going to have to look her up too?”
From the look on her face Ninhursag’s sudden laugh startled her more than it did Iain. “Her? No, she was just desperate for attention. To her credit she never made anything up in the things she told him. She was just trying to make the best of a bad situation.” She glanced at him. “I hated her at the time but that’s because I couldn’t make her stop. It just made us act out more.”
Iain was nodding. “It’s the Cheetah conundrum. Er, monkey, not pokegirl.”
The Elfqueen blinked. “What’s that?”
“Everyone who is wronged wants to find a way to feel better about it. Cheetah was the Chimpanzee who was with a jungle man called Tarzan of the Apes, but this works in harems too. The story is that the biggest ape is bored and so he goes to the next biggest ape and beats him up. The beaten ape goes to the next smaller ape and kicks his ass before stealing his banana. That ape goes to Cheetah and beats him silly. Afterwards, Cheetah gets up, dusts himself off and screams bloody murder at the trees. You and your sisters were Cheetah.”
“I have one question.” She waited until he raised an eyebrow curiously. “What’s an ape?”
(11/19/08 0845 St. Louis, Johto League)
William Sanderson was over a hundred and ninety centimeters tall and because of it he towered over Iain as they shook hands. He was broad shouldered and muscular, with a neat black beard that was carefully trimmed so the upper edge of the beard almost hid the nasty scar that ran from the right corner of his mouth almost to his ear. He was careful to smile without showing his teeth, which led Iain to suspect that the damage might not be limited to the cheek. “Renee tells me that you might have something for me?”
Behind Iain, Ninhursag stood with her face as blank as she could make it. Over the delta bond Iain could feel her bubbling fury lashing at him in waves that sometimes made it hard to think. It turned out that this William Sanderson was the spitting image of the one who’d started molesting her. That was bad enough for her emotional state, but the fact that Heather was working the store this morning was almost more than the angry Elfqueen could stomach. She obviously hadn’t been here long and was hyper vigilant in regards to paying attention to where Sanderson was at all times. It was obvious from the fresh and fading bruises on her arms that the process of settling into her new harem was not going as smoothly as it might.
Heather was an Elf.
Iain ignored the emotions that didn’t belong to him as best he could. “My brother’s widow passed recently and in her will she was giving things to people she’d known her whole life. Your name was on the list. I think she knew you from her childhood.”
Sanderson frowned. “What was her name?”
“Mary.” Iain waited just long enough for Sanderson to start to speak when he continued. “I don’t know what her maiden name was.”
That statement made William stop in surprise. “Why not?”
“She never told me what her name was before she married Carl. She was already married to my brother for a few years before we met. When they got married here in the US, I was already living in Ireland and I couldn’t get away for the wedding. I didn’t even get an invitation to the wedding since they knew I couldn’t make it. On top of that, I didn’t return to the states until after the Red Plague and Carl’s death. That’s when I finally got the chance to meet my sister in law. Mary never mentioned any family to me and her house was burned to the ground by a feral pokegirl a few years before her death. She almost didn’t get out and she lost everything she owned. Her will was in a bank lock box which is why it survived.”
“How’d she die?”
“It was either the flu or pneumonia that got her. The doctor wasn’t sure which it was.” Iain shrugged. “Either way it was an awful way to go.” He motioned to Ninhursag, who slid the backpack off of one shoulder and handed it to him.
As he opened the pack he was aware of the presence of Canaan and April, who was masquerading as the Splice’s tamer, stopped a dozen meters from the front of the Milwaukee Emporium with Canaan standing where she could see Sanderson through the windows. They held a brief conversation and continued on out of his sight. Her mind carefully touched his and excluded Ninhursag’s at the same time. Like a lot of humans here and now, William Sanderson feels that he is the triumphant victor and that all pokegirls are the property of the victors to do with as they happen to please. He had Autumn and now has Heather because it was an Elf or Elfqueen who ruined his face at the tail end of the war and why he will always want one around as a punching bag. From his memories of the incident he was wounded by an Elfqueen, but he doesn’t know that they are different breeds. Sometimes it’s a wonder that humans managed to survive the Revenge War at all. I think it’s because they’ve got a lot more in common with cockroaches than most people realize.
Iain managed not to laugh as pulled out a small box. He hesitated, looking at it and then abruptly offered it to Sanderson. “Carl worked in sales and was very successful back before the wars. This was his before his death, but it went to Mary and so it was hers to give to you.” He smiled humorlessly. “I don’t have many hard feelings over you getting it.”
Sanderson looked at the outside of the wrapped box curiously as he took it. “I figure that if you had too many hard feelings about this you’d just return home with whatever this is and lie about not being able to find me.”
Iain smiled crookedly. “There is that.” He spoke across the delta bond. He is judged and later we will return for his life.
Good. What about Heather?
What about her? She is not important to me.
I am a queen, Iain, with a court. She needs to come with us. Renee can stay though. I know your opinion of the rabbit breeds and for the most part I share it.
You share it for the most part? Should I ask where our opinions differ?
I don’t like Mini-Tops either and you do. In my experiences they are too unpredictable to be useful in a harem. And all of your personal experience with them is imaginary.
That hurts. Iain refocused as Sanderson began peeling the paper from the package. But you should probably be aware that I had a chance to add a Mini-Top to the harem during the Sadie Pokens where I met Irena and didn’t. So there, wench.
Sanderson opened the box and stared into it for nearly a minute before looking up. “Is this a real Rolex?”
“It is. You’ll find the certificate of authenticity in the bottom.”
“It’s too much,” Sanderson said, still staring at it. He looked up slowly. “Why didn’t Mary give this to you?”
“She gave me one of her prized possessions instead,” Iain said with a smile. “And the one she knew I really wanted. I’m more of a Walmart or Meijer kind of guy when it comes to watches anyway.”
“What could she have prized more than this?”
Iain jerked his thumb at Ninhursag. “Her.”
The disgust Sanderson felt was in his voice. “I don’t recognize what she is. Do you know what kind of Elf she is?”
Iain nodded. “She’s not an Elf at all. She’s an Elfqueen.”
Sanderson looked Ninhursag up and down again. “How do you tell the difference?”
“Elfqueens tend to be curvier than regular Elves. That and when they get taller than five and a half feet it’s usually an Elfqueen.”
Sanderson looked over his corner at Heather, who managed not to flinch. “So what is Heather?”
“She’s an Elf. She could evolve into an Elfqueen if the conditions were right, but I doubt it’ll happen here.”
Sanderson blinked and looked back at Heather again before returning a hungry gaze to Iain. “What do I have to do?”
Ninhursag moved slightly, which was a credit to her iron self-control since Iain knew she really wanted to grab him and shake him violently at the idea that he’d help Sanderson turn Heather into the breed he apparently hated most. He smiled broadly. “You ever hear of evolution stones?”
Sanderson nodded. “I know that there are rocks that make pokegirls turn into other pokegirls.”
“It’s called evolving and the rocks are called evolution stones. They’ve got various names. You need a queen stone to turn an Elf into an Elfqueen, just like you need it to turn a Dragoness into a Dragonqueen. It’s required to evolve any of the queen breeds. I might be able to get you one if you’re interested.”
Sanderson nodded. “I would be very interested in that. Can you get more of these stones?”
Iain glanced at the door as if to make sure it was shut and they were still alone. “I might be able to. Why?”
“They’d be pretty expensive, wouldn’t they? And if I have the only supply, you and I could make a killing with them.”
“That is true enough. You understand that they’re being bought by the Indigo government and that it’s pretty much illegal to sell them to anyone else.” Iain looked thoughtful as he watched Sanderson’s eyes dim. “Still, it’s technically not illegal, and technicality is the soul of law. We might be able to work something out. Unfortunately I can’t stay right now. I’ve got to get back to Indigo since finding you took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I should be able to get back in a month or so with some stones. We can discuss percentages at that time and what the future looks like on the supply side.”
Sanderson stuck out his hand. “You’ve got a deal, Drummond.”
Iain took the hand. “Well, we’ve got to be going. Be well, Sanderson.”
Once they were outside, Ninhursag fell into place behind Iain. She spoke in a low voice. “Without commenting on the fact that you can lie like a champion, now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve seen any evolution stones in any of the stores. Do the leagues know about them yet?”
Iain shrugged. “They know of them from their pokegirls but few of them knew where or what the source of the stones was. Where evolution stones came from was glossed over in canon. My thoughts on it were never really articulated until some pokegirls were designed to make certain stones, but I always figured that some of the magic that James’ forces did before and during the war converted already existing minerals into evolution stones, which explained why they could be mined. Any mineral deposits could have them. It was also done on at least a system wide scale, so the other planets, meteors and asteroids have them. That’s why there is an asteroid base in Where None Has Gone Before. The asteroid was being mined for evolution stones for the Revenge War armies.”
Iain walked exactly three more steps before a wave of anguish swept in from his twee that was strong enough to make him stagger. Ninhursag grabbed him by the shoulder to hold him steady as Theodora almost cried into his mind. I am so sorry, Iain. I have made a huge mistake.
Iain shivered in the onslaught of emotion. Apparently Theodora had gotten a lot better at mimicking organic life than he’d realized. Theodora, is any of our family dead?
Confusion tinged the anguish this time. No, Iain, of course not.
Then there’s nothing you could have done that we can’t work through. What is the matter?
The anguish faded a bit. Please understand that until you mentioned it a few seconds ago, I didn’t know anything about evolution stones other than what was in your pokedex’s records. At that time I contacted Alexandria with a question about them and, when she couldn’t provide me with the answer, we contacted Selene in Haven. Before that, I didn’t know what the chemical compositions of the various elemental stones looked like and, she hesitated, when I processed the asteroid I inadvertently destroyed all of the ones it held. I didn’t realize what they were and I am very, very sorry for the error.
Iain laughed. Theodora’s anguish faded more at his obvious amusement. I didn’t think to tell you and you didn’t know. There’s nothing to be sorry about. Are you done processing the asteroid?
Then the solution is simple. Just put the processed material someplace safe and go get another asteroid or some meteors for processing. This time collect the evolution stones and ship them to us.
Thank you, Iain. The gratitude that accompanied her words was as overpowering as the earlier anguish. It would have been within your rights to punish me.
You know I’m not like that. The vast majority of clan leaders who have AIs in their clans aren’t like that either and you know that as well.
I do know these things and I’m still pleased to see that you’re not one of the exceptions.
Theodora, people make mistakes. It happens, it gets fixed and we move on. You’re as much a person as I am and I don’t expect perfection from anyone. I don’t expect it from myself and I cannot expect it from anyone else if I don’t.
Up until this point Iain knew that Ninhursag was listening to his conversation with Theodora, but something changed and he knew his Elfqueen was suddenly excluded. Is it possible for machines to love?
Iain knew the answer to that. No. Machines cannot love. But you are not a machine. You are a person and you are alive, even if that life isn’t identical to mine. So to answer your real question, yes, you can love.
I’m going to have to think about this, Iain. Do you think it is possible for an organic and an inorganic to love?
Life is full of odd things, Theodora. Love is not one of them but by its nature it is very illogical. I think that where love is involved anything is possible, so yes I think that an organic and an inorganic could love each other. And before you say we couldn’t have sex, sex is not an absolutely necessary part of love.
If I were Pandora or some of the others I would deny that this line of inquiry was about you and me. Do you think you might love me some day?
It’s funny that before I was kidnapped by Sanctuary I never thought I’d find a single woman that I could love and who could love me and yet today I am surrounded by them. At times I wondered if I were even capable of love. You are one of those women, Theodora, and I expect that I will love you, if I do not already.
I am glad to hear that, Iain.
(11/23/08 0215 St. Louis, Johto League)
Iain watched with surprise as Ninhursag quickly picked the lock to the Milwaukee Emporium. She glanced at him as she put her lock picking tools away and smiled at the look on his face. In a world filled with spells to detect magic it’s sometimes very useful to have an old fashioned ability to open doors that other people don’t necessarily want you to go through. With some of my tools I can also bypass a lot of electronic locks and with my enhanced hearing I’m very, very good with combination locks. She checked her gloves again and moved sideways a little before taking his arm and teleporting through the window into the store.
They’d unlocked the door to give the police a false lead to follow but, mindful of the bell attached to it, had elected to enter the store another way.
Iain’s low light vision was as good as Ninhursag’s and he followed her unerringly as she headed for the door to the living area. She tested the door and slowly opened it when she found it unlocked. It hadn’t made noise when Renee opened it to come out and it didn’t make noise now as Ninhursag eased through it.
The back half of the store was partially filled with goods in piles and boxes. A rough kitchen area had been put into place against the back wall and the glow from the banked stove was enough for them to see the interior clearly. Next to a sturdy round card table with four chairs around it a door led back to the store’s warehouse area. A pile of rags snored softly not far from the door they’d just used. Iain stared long enough to make out tousled hair sticking out from one end of the pile. It was Heather.
Ninhursag pulled the knife she’d shoved in her belt as Iain knelt next to the pallet. The snores changed, becoming slightly louder and deeper. They exchanged looks before he eased the ratty blanket down to reveal the Elf’s face. Her eyes were screwed shut as she pretended to be still asleep. Iain had heard of this behavior in sexually abused children.
Heather’s eyes popped open when Iain tapped her gently on the nose with a forefinger. They looked around wildly before stopping on him and became huge. He touched his finger to his lips and rose, motioning for her to get up as he did. She became aware of Ninhursag and her eyes locked on the knife. She pulled the blanket down to free her arms and pointed frantically at herself with a questioning look. Ninhursag shook her head, tapped the blade of the knife with a finger and pointed the finger at the door to the warehouse.
Heather oozed silently out from under the blankets. Her mouth opened but she froze when Iain touched his finger to her lips. He mimed rabbit ears over his head and pointed to the door. Comprehension filled the nude Elf’s eyes and she clamped her mouth closed. Iain nodded to Ninhursag and beckoned for Heather to follow him back out to the store part of the building. Once there, he motioned her out of the line of sight of both the door and the windows before summoning his staff and stationing himself where he could intercept anyone fleeing from the back.
They both jumped when a loud crash came from the back but Iain shook his head when Heather started to move towards it. A short time later he relaxed. “We can talk now.”
Heather fixed him with a furious glare. “Why didn’t you go with your queen?”
“Because if Renee had attacked me, which she did,” Ninhursag came into the room, “he’d have probably been injured and would certainly have been in the way.” She handed Iain a box. “I got the Rolex and some other jewelry I found. It should still look like a simple robbery gone badly.” She hefted a pokeball. “And here’s Renee.”
Heather blinked and her eyes signaled her confusion. “You gave him that watch. I am glad he is dead but why did you rob him of it when you brought it to him?”
Iain smiled. “He was bragging about it, right?”
“He was. He told all of his friends and several people who came in to shop.”
“I knew he would. That means we won’t be suspected in his murder. That’s the real reason we came here tonight, to murder Sanderson and rescue you. The robbery is a ruse. As for why we wanted to kill Sanderson, we’ll tell you that story later.” He gestured at the racks of clothing. “Find something to wear and let’s get out of here.”
Ninhursag - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa - Evangelion
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck - Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Allison - Umbrea
Silver - Ponytaur
Heather - Elf
2 Elfqueens - Dionne & Adrianna
Joyce - Milktit
Heltu - Wet Queen
6 Wet Elves