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Loose Threads

One Hundred Forty Three


            Ganieda watched him filling the feed bucket with treats. “You know, I thought this was silly until you did it for me in my Cheetaura bunny form.”

            “If I remember correctly, it made you really horny when I bathed you,” Iain said with an amused smile.

            “It did and you took care of that perfectly well after it, but the bath and having you give me treats was also really nice, even before it got me horny. You can feel free to do that again at any time.”

            “I’ll add it to my list of the things my pretty doe likes,” Iain said. He picked up a treat from the bucket. “Want one?”

            “Thank you, but I prefer the meat and cheese treats you have for me, not the oats, honey and berry ones.” Ganieda’s head turned slightly. “And here’s Golden Cloud now.” She frowned and dropped her voice. “And she’s not alone.”

            Iain turned to watch as Golden Cloud entered, followed by The Queen. He paused for a second when he realized that Golden Cloud’s body language was neutral, which was unusual for the normally cheerful mare. She was looking at the ground as she walked and was staying behind The Queen. The Queen’s body language was solidly confident with a bit of a swagger, but that was normal for her. “Good afternoon, ladies.”

            “There has been a change, stallion,” The Queen announced. “I am the queen of the herd once more, as is proper.”

            Iain looked from her to Golden Cloud. “Is this true?”

            Golden Cloud bobbed her head in a human looking nod and spoke to the ground in front of her nose. “The awakened mares of the herd have decided that The Queen is their true leader, as it was when most of them were alive. They considerably outnumber the mares I commanded when I was herd queen and I wish no violence within the herd.”

            Iain had been learning the history of the unicorns, both so he could better relate with them and, also, because he was immensely curious about everything about them. “From what I remember, this is not how the succession within the herd is supposed to proceed. Once a mare is queen of the herd, she is queen for the rest of her life.”

            “It is unprecedented,” The Queen said, “but so is the return of our dead to life. I am the proper queen and I will always be so.”

            “I see.”

            Golden Cloud’s ears flicked at the sudden lack of emotion in Iain’s voice. “The herd is outer clan,” she said quietly. “You said you will not interfere in the politics of the outer clans unless it becomes disruptive to the clan.”

            Iain had said that. He had meant it at the time, too. And it was obvious that Golden Cloud had accepted the change, willing or not and was not asking him to interfere. “I did and I meant it.” He shrugged. “Thank you for the update. I’ll pass it along at the next staff meeting.”

            I am passing it along now, Ganieda said over their bond.


            The Queen spoke again. “That means that I will be receiving baths and treats from now on in Golden Cloud’s place and, once I come into heat, you will breed me, stallion.”

            Iain raised an eyebrow. “No.”

            The Queen’s ears went back as, behind her, Golden Cloud lifted her head for the first time and looked at him curiously. The Queen snapped her teeth angrily. “Explain!”

            “My agreement with Golden Cloud to breed her has nothing to do with her being the queen of the herd.”

            The Queen looked back at Golden Cloud and then at him. “How did this agreement come into being?”

            “Golden Cloud and I met in the original forest where I refused to answer her questions. When she demanded answers, I left. She followed me here and outsmarted me in our conversation, tricking me into agreeing to breed her. It is a personal bargain made between her and me and it does not transfer with the title of herd queen.”

            “That is easily solved,” The Queen said. Her head turned to look at Golden Cloud. “You will transfer this right to me. Now.”

            “I give you my right to a foal from Reluctant Stallion,” Golden Cloud said obediently.

            “That won’t change anything.”

            Both mares looked curiously at Iain. “I have given her the right,” Golden Cloud said. “It is hers now. It is the way of the herd that the queen of the herd commands and mares obey. You cannot interfere, as you have said you would not. It is not disruptive.”

            Iain shrugged again. “I agree that this is political. I also agree that I did say that I would stay out of nondisruptive politics of the outer clans. I intend to keep to that. However, while she can order you to do something like this, that does not change the agreement I had with you. Nothing in our agreement allows you to pass my obligations to someone else. I would never agree to that. You can release me from the agreement to breed you until you have a foal. You cannot change my part of that agreement without renegotiating it completely.” He motioned towards the bucket of treats. “Bathing you and everything involved with the baths was about getting to know the future mother of my foal. It was not about you being herd or being queen of the herd. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be listening to other members of the herd insisting I bathe them too.”

            The Queen stomped a hoof. “I demand you breed me and not Golden Cloud!”

            “You have no power over me,” Iain said calmly. “No matter what Golden Cloud says sometimes, I am not herd and I am not subject to your will. In point of fact, as the Grey, you are sworn to me and therefore subject to my will if I desire it. Your oath is clear and binding in that regard.”

            It was obvious that The Queen did not like hearing that. “The First Stallion breeds the herd queen!”

            Iain spoke slowly and distinctly. “I am not First Stallion. I even checked more than usual because of all of the weird shenanigans that can go on with me and time travel. The herd does not carry my DNA, either mine or through a descendant of mine and, unless I give Golden Cloud a foal, it will not.” Iain gave The Queen a flat look. “Besides, I understand that the First Stallion bred all the mares, not just you.”

            “He bred me first!”

            “Awesome. I’m sure you have fond memories of him and all the things the two of you did together. That does not change the fact that I am not him.” He looked at Golden Cloud. “No matter what you tell The Queen or what she insists, my agreement is with you. If you wish to renegotiate it, then you have to release me from it first so that a new contract can be negotiated. If you wish to release me from it entirely, you can do that too. You cannot transfer it, just as I could not transfer this agreement to, say, one of the Moon horse stallions so that he could breed you in my place. You wouldn’t have allowed that.”

            “I would not have,” Golden Cloud agreed. “I would not let a horse stallion anywhere near me while I am in heat.”

            The Queen’s ears went completely flat and her horn oriented on Iain’s chest. Her voice was an angry hiss. “Did you just compare me to a Moon horse mare?”

            “I did not.” He glanced at Golden Cloud, who looked like she was trying not to laugh. “What do you want to do?”

            “We will renegotiate your agreement with her,” The Queen said before Golden Cloud could speak. She looked at the unicorn mare. “Release him so he can negotiate with me this time.”

            Golden Cloud nodded. “Yes, Herd Queen.” She turned to Iain and her ears suddenly flattened. “Stallion,” she said thoughtfully, “I have learned about you as you have learned about me. I have a question before I release you to negotiate with The Queen.” She paused for a moment, obviously gathering her thoughts. “If I release you from our agreement to breed me until I have a foal and The Queen demands to negotiate for her to have your foal, your reply to her will be no, won’t it?”

            The Queen’s ears flattened. “What!”

            “Reluctant Stallion is as smart as any mare. I won my right to have a foal from him because of a misunderstanding between the two of us that I took advantage of. I doubt it will be repeated as he learns quickly from what he considers mistakes. I do not think he will willingly enter into the same agreement with you. He has said that in order to negotiate a foal with you to replace the foal with me, I must release him from his agreement with me. That is logical as he has insisted that he will not breed two mares in the herd. But what he has not said is that he will negotiate with you if released from his agreement with me. Thus my question to him. I am clan and therefore he will not lie to me if he can. He can refuse to answer the question and such refusal will mean he will refuse to negotiate and only seeks to be free of the obligation to breed any mare in the herd.” Golden Cloud cocked her head. “I will release you from this obligation if you negotiate with The Queen first and successfully reach an agreement with her.”

            Iain shook his head sadly. “Nice try, but no. I think that The Queen would order you to refuse to release me at that point and then I’d have to breed you both. She has proven she has the honor of her creator and not the honor that you possess. She’d claim her refusal would be because two foals would be for the betterment of the herd and that it justified her orders to you. The fact that she’s of good alignment doesn’t mean she can’t be as deceitful and selfish as any demon.”

            “The herd queen’s decisions are supposed to be for the improvement of the herd,” Golden Cloud noted. “In such a situation, even I would be strongly tempted to try to get you to breed more than one mare. But that returns us to my question. Will you answer it?”

            “Truthfully,” The Queen snapped.

            “As far as I am aware,” Golden Cloud said, “in all our discussions, Iain has never lied to me. Instead, he refuses to answer questions. Will you refuse to answer my question this time?”

            Iain smiled. “I will answer it and the answer is, as you thought, no. I see no reason to negotiate breeding a foal with The Queen or anyone else in the herd.”

            “The improvement of the herd is not to your benefit?” Golden Cloud shook her head. “We are clan and the clan is supposed to grow stronger. Your blood would make us stronger.”

            “As they are brought back to life, a bunch of new stallions are being added to the herd,” Iain pointed out. “Several of them have the original bloodline that don’t have the influence of the outside lines. My blood would add little that theirs will not.”

            “Your blood is new,” Golden Cloud said. “It is not from the First Stallion and therefore could add much to the herd.” She shook her head like she was clearing a fly, making her mane fly around her neck like a white cloud. “You admit you will not negotiate with The Queen. The herd needs your bloodline. I will not release you.”

            “I understand.” Iain picked up the bucket of treats. “Do you two want to share these?”

            “You will not breed me?” The Queen gave a human sounding sigh through her mouth. “Why not?”

            “I don’t know you,” Iain replied. “Golden Cloud tricked me and my family decided it was important at the time that I follow through with it. I don’t want to have children with women I don’t love. I’ve been getting to know Golden Cloud so that hopefully, when she does go into heat, I’ll care enough for her to want to have a child with her. That baths were part of that. You, on the other hand, are very new here. Additionally, you disappeared into the forest just as soon as you woke up and you’ve been busy ever since working to reclaim the position of herd queen, which you feel is your First Stallion given right. And I say that because I seriously doubt that the mares suddenly decided that they needed a change of leadership and spontaneously revolted against Golden Cloud to install you.” He shrugged. “I do intend to stay out of the politics of the herd, but I will note that you led the herd during its formation and initial growth, under the guidance and protection of the First Stallion for most of your career. He vanished and later you died. Golden Cloud later became queen of the herd and she led the herd through some very rough times. The herd was much smaller and much less powerful and were beset by enemies. But she was successful in keeping the herd safe. And she was the herd queen for a lot longer than you were.”

            The Queen was not quite glaring at him. “What are you implying with your words?”

            “I am implying nothing. I am suggesting that you should put Golden Cloud in a position to offer you advice and that you listen to that advice. You don’t have to do everything she advises, but she’s brought the herd successfully through events that you have not.”

            The Queen’s ears slowly came up and she looked at Golden Cloud for a long moment before returning her attention to Iain. “You do not wish to replace me with her?”

            “I stated some facts. I have not expressed an opinion on you becoming queen of the herd. I will not, unless I see that your leadership is somehow detrimental to the flourishing of the herd. At that point, I will get involved.” He held up a finger. “However, that point has not and, hopefully, will not arrive.” His hand dropped. “Now, I have an obligation to Golden Cloud to breed her during her heats until she produces a foal. In order to do so, I require that she spends time with me while I get to know her well enough to want to give her that foal. I am not going to allow you to make me forsworn to her. If you plan to keep her from spending time with me, say so now and order her to release me from our agreement.”

            The Queen looked at Golden Cloud. “Advise me.”

            “My queen, his blood is not currently present in the herd and, as he is like the First Stallion, his blood will make the herd stronger. His ways are strange to us, but the experience is not unpleasant. If you would like, I will negotiate with him so that you may have a bath and some treats that you may experience it too.”

            “I want this,” The Queen said. “Stallion, we will talk more later.” She turned and headed back for the woods.

            “Stallion, I wish to express my gratitude for you not involving yourself in the politics of the herd,” Golden Cloud said when The Queen was out of sight.

            “Are you happy with what happened?”

            “I am not. However, if it is what is best for the herd, I accept it. The Queen led us for many years and the herd prospered while she did. My wish is that it will prosper now as it did then.”

            “While I believe that the herd would prosper at least as well under your leadership, I can accept that.” Iain put the bucket of treats down in front of her. “No bath today, but you’re welcome to the treats.” He barely got out of the way as Golden Cloud dove for the bucket.

            Not ruled by her stomach, is she, Ganieda asked over her bond.

            Be nice. It sounds like she’s had a rough time recently. Iain began putting away the tools he’d gotten out to bathe and brush Golden Cloud. “We’ll talk later about this negotiation you wanted for The Queen to get bathed.”

            “We will,” Golden Cloud was eating the treats as fast as she could.

            “Well, if it’s all right, I’ll leave you here to finish up.”

            Golden Cloud lifted her head from the bucket. “You are still my stallion?”

            “I am.”

            “Good. I still do not want you with the other mares, especially not The Queen.”

            “I understand.” He nodded to Ganieda. “I’ve got a bit of time so I’m off to my office to read some reports.”

            Ganieda followed him out of the stable.



            Caintigern looked up from her tablet at Iain’s soft curse. “What is wrong?”

            Iain reached for his mug of water and took a deep drink. “Nightraven may be right and this won’t work.”

            Caintigern put her tablet down. “Show me what you are seeing.”

            Iain smiled slightly as he activated the holographic projector. Caintigern and Nightraven had made great strides in understanding technology. They weren’t comfortable with it, not like he was, but given enough time that would happen too.

            The hologram Iain displayed showed a graph. As it traveled from left to right, it showed many small peaks followed by one large one. After that the graph dropped back to the many small peaks and then several larger ones and, finally, another large one that surpassed the original highest peak. “This graph represents violent activity among the People during the time of a transition between bloodlines, as recorded over time.” He highlighted the small peaks at the beginning of the graph. “It starts with small escalations of attacks, usually on members of the current ruling family or their servants.” The highlight moved to the first big peak. “Then there is the coup. There is a tremendous loss of life from the coup itself and then the subsequent purges of family members and loyal followers. Usually it weakens the new ruling line. Then follows a time of relative peace which doesn’t last long as there are rebellions against the new rulers and other ambitious bloodlines begin testing the waters to see just how weak the new rulers are. Then, finally, the second coup where the true new ruling bloodline takes over. Because the first revolutionaries spent a lot of their forces in their coup, the second bloodline doesn’t have nearly as many losses during their coup and things settle down for a while until the next cycle begins.”

            Iain reached for his water. “This pattern, with some minor variations, is followed almost exactly in every change of bloodline in the People’s history. Except the first. Nobody in the ruling family expected Blacktooth’s coup and so they weren’t prepared to fight and they were slaughtered. After that, the ruling families expected betrayal and planned for it.”

            Caintigern closed her eyes for a second. “It hurts,” she said.

            “I’m not trying to cause you more pain. This is a dispassionate look at what happened and the problem it gives us.”

            Caintigern opened her eyes. “What problem is that?”

            “Based on the information that you’ve given me, the memories you’ve shared and the records I recovered from the People’s star system, I’ve been doing some behavioral modeling.”

            Caintigern frowned. Her eyes went wide. “My twee told me what this is. Is there anything that you do not have a science for?”

            Iain chuckled. “Probably not.” His humor faded away. “The problem is that no matter where I insert our successful destruction of the ruling family of that time and the reestablishment of the Royal bloodline on the throne,” he gestured at the graph, “society will treat us just like another bloodline exterminating the previous one.”

            Caintigern looked surprised. “But it is the Royal bloodline! It is well respected and beloved!”

            “I thought so too, and I’ve allowed for that, but it doesn’t change anything. Apparently, once the dragonesses got a taste for blood, it doesn’t matter anymore whose blood they were drinking.”

            “What if we interceded between changes in bloodlines?”

            “Then the ruling line hasn’t been weakened and our work becomes a lot more difficult. Even then, if we are successful, the graph then goes into effect since we just completed a transition to a new bloodline,” Iain highlighted the first big peak. “That puts us here on the graph. Then the modeling plays out the rest of the graph.” He highlighted the biggest peak, “where we get replaced by someone who was smart and bided her time before striking.”

            Caintigern stared at the graph. “Our children will fight with us and their strength will make ours overwhelming.”

            “I factored that in. Unless we wait until we have hundreds of children, they all help us and our losses are trivial, nothing changes except the interval between our takeover and the attack by another bloodline. We never get enough time to consolidate and recover, which is what we’d need to keep the throne.” He slammed a fist down on the tabletop. “There has to be a way to make this work.”

            Caintigern got up, came around the desk and put a hand on his shoulder. “You have been working nonstop on this for days. You said that was not productive. I believe you have reached the point of small returns.”

            Iain smiled up at her. “Diminishing returns, not small returns, but you may be right.” Iain had spent a lot of his free time wrestling with this problem and between him, Caintigern and Nightraven, they’d poured a couple of man years of hours into the project.

            Caintigern tightened her grip on his shoulder. “Hunt with me.” She smiled. “I will let you feed from my kill.”

            Iain reached up and squeezed her hand. “That sounds interesting. Let’s see what you can find for me to eat.”


            Iain waved to the Ladyba behind the desk. “Good morning, Maisie. How are you today?”

            She smiled back at him. “I’m fine, Iain.” She pushed her chair back. “David may still be on a conference call with his election team, but I’ll let him know you’re here.”

            “Thank you.” Iain rocked on his heels as he hummed to himself as she left.

            Maisie was back a few minutes later. “He’s wrapping up, so it’s going to be a little while longer. Would you like some tea?”

            “Thank you but no.” He continued rocking on his heels.

            Eventually Maisie got up and went down the hall to Lyons’ office, returning a few minutes later. “He’s ready to see you, Iain.”

            “Thank you. When is Savoie supposed to be here?”

            “In twenty minutes, sir, but he’s always been late.” Iain muttered something under his breath and she smiled. “You’re a little obsessive about time, aren’t you, sir?”

            “No, Maisie, I am a lot obsessive about time.” The Ladyba laughed as he headed down the hall. He knocked on Lyons’ door.


            Iain went in. “Mr. Vice President.”

            Lyons glared briefly. “Don’t start that crap with me, Iain.”

            Iain chuckled. “Fine, David. How are you?”

            “I’m good. You?”

            “It’s been a mite hectic. What do you think Savoie wants?”

            David leaned back in his chair. “I told him not to come back until Louisiana was ready to pull the trigger on the plebiscite. Have you heard anything about them doing so?”

            “I don’t have that many spies in Louisiana,” Iain replied. “But we haven’t heard anything about any voting going on or any announcements about one being scheduled.” He rubbed his eyes. “That f,” he paused. “Savoie had better not be wasting my time. I don’t have any to spare and I’m not in the mood for his games.”



            “Did you just censor yourself?”

            Iain grinned. “I’ve been spending more time around the kids and I’m trying to cut back on the profanity. Again. It’s not that big a thing and it makes Pandora happy to see that I’m trying.”

            Lyons made a face. “Kids. Don’t say that word around me.”


            “Maisie has spent too much time with your family. She wants children.”

            Iain smiled. “I’ll check, but I don’t think anyone wants to sell theirs right now. She’ll have to find another way to get some.”

            “You’re not funny.”

            “I am to me.” Iain smirked at David. “The truth is that nobody is sure what makes a pokegirl spontaneously get pregnant.”

            David raised an eyebrow. “What, you and your super godlike high technology and magic doesn’t know everything?”

            “No. I have no idea where Jimmy Hoffa is really buried. Not a clue.”

            David laughed. “So why are so many of the pokegirls around you pregnant?”

            Iain shrugged. “Like I said, nobody is sure what makes a pokegirl spontaneously get pregnant. As far as I’m concerned, I suspect someone,” he gestured upwards, “up there has a sick sense of humor and thinks my life should be far more interesting than it already is.”

            “And Maisie?”

            “Explain to her what I told you and otherwise keep doing what you’ve been doing. She’s happy and that means that whatever the two of you are doing, it’s the right thing for you two.”

            “How about you explain it to her over lunch with me and Maisie? She’s very well aware that I don’t have much of a scientific mind. Lorena has led her to believe that you do.”

            “I can do that.”

            There was a quick knock on the door and Maisie cracked it open. She looked inside to make sure the two men weren’t busy. “David, Mr. Savoie is here.”

            “Thank you, Maisie, please show him in and then bring us some tea.”

            “Yes, sir.” She shut the door quietly.

            A moment later she opened the door again. “Mr. Vice President, Ambassador Savoie.” She stepped out of the way so Savoie could enter. He was wearing a nice suit and carried a briefcase. “I’ll get the tea, sir,” she said as she closed the door behind Savoie.

            David came around the desk with his hand out. “Hello Gaston, I hope you’re well.”

            They shook. “I am, David,” Gaston said cheerfully. He held out his hand to Iain. “Iain.”

            Iain stood and took it. “Gaston.”

            Lyons waved both men into seats before sitting in the chair at the head of the small coffee table between them. He placed his phone on the table in front of him and looked up at a knock. “Come in.”

            Maisie entered, pushing a trolley in front of her. “Sir, your tea.” She unloaded the trolley onto the coffee table and quickly poured a cup of tea for each of the men. “Will there be anything else?”

            Lyons shook his head. “Thank you but no.” He leaned back as Maisie took the trolley and left the room. “So, Gaston, I presume you’re here with news, good news I hope.”

            Gaston put his briefcase on the coffee table and opened it. “I believe it is excellent news.” He removed a sheaf of papers and offered them to David. “My government has agreed to almost every one of your stipulations. The government has voted and they’re ready to sign on the dotted line and join with Texas as the free state of Louisiana!”

            David took the papers and opened them up. “Almost? What did they balk at?” He glanced warningly at Iain, who gave him a bland look in return as he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers over his chest.

            “This absurdity that pokegirls are people, of course,” Savoie said with a pleasant smile. “We’re willing to make sure they’re taken care of better than they have been in the past, but they can’t live without humans and Louisiana sees no reason for them to be allowed to wander around by themselves to go feral once more. The humans who take them in and care for them are just like those who do the same with feral horses or dogs and they should be reimbursed for their generosity and be able to keep or dispose of their property as they wish to.”

            David spent the next few minutes reading through the papers before dropping them back in Savoie’s briefcase. “No.”

            Savoie looked surprised. “No?”

            “No. Look, Gaston, I really hope that you were forced to deliver this after warning your government that it was going to be unacceptable. If that’s the case, then you have my sympathies for having to try and get me to accept this. If not, then you haven’t learned anything about Texas or me during our meetings.”

            “If I may,” Iain said quietly.

            Lyons looked curiously at him. “What is it?”

            “What I see is not Louisiana wanting to join Texas. I see Louisiana wanting Texas to help it break away from Indigo, rebuild it, protect it and let it form the country of Louisiana, which just happens to have laws that are just as detestable as those of the Indigo League. He’s probably ready to try to sweeten this deal with the idea that Louisiana, once its back on its feet, will pledge eternal friendship with Texas even while it pisses on our ideals.”

            “My government would want a mutual defense treaty against Indigo,” Savoie said. “And a free Louisiana would take pressure off of Texas by forming a buffer zone between it and Indigo.”

            “I think your government should,” Iain broke off. “Never mind. It’s not my place to suggest Texas policy.”

            “Spill it, Iain,” Lyons said. “Unless it’s just profane.”

            “No, It’s just that I think that if Louisiana wants to be free from Indigo and set up its own government with its own laws that we don’t agree with, let them do it.” He smiled coldly. “Alone.”

            Savoie jerked in his seat. “What! If that’s your attitude, perhaps we will!”

            “Except you can’t,” Lyons said quietly. “If you could have freed yourself without Texas’ help, you’d have already done so.”

            “They might be able to do it now,” Iain disagreed. “Haven’s bombardment shattered the Indigo military. Of course, that includes the Indigo elements in Louisiana that Louisiana might have suborned to its own uses, but if Louisiana can come up with enough patriots willing to put their lives on the line for their country, it’s doable. The window for a successful rebellion is narrow and closing a little more each day as Indigo consolidates its surviving forces, but it’s definitely something that can be done.” That cold smile reappeared. “Except, of course, for the small fact that they don’t have the balls to rebel on their own.”

            “Now see here,” Savoie said angrily. “There is no need to descend to throwing around insults.”

            David poked the papers in Savoie’s briefcase. “This document is an insult to Texas, Gaston, so you started it. President Robinson will never agree to even present this to our Representatives. And if she did, they’d reject it out of hand.” He smiled thinly. “Some of them happen to be pokegirls and would be rather angry about the idea of being friends with a government that is keeping their sisters as slaves.”

            “President Robinson won’t be president for much longer,” Savoie said with a smile. “When you’re the president, things will be different, won’t they? And you are very influential and liked in your Congress. Many things would become possible then.”

            “Yes, things will be different, if I am elected,” Lyons said evenly. “However, I agree with her on this one. Either Louisiana joins Texas under our laws or Louisiana doesn’t join Texas at all. The prohibition of slavery is written into our Constitution. It is not now and never will be negotiable.” He shrugged. “I believe we’re done here, Ambassador Savoie.”

            “My government is not going to be pleased with your decision,” Savoie said as he settled the papers properly and closed up the briefcase. “What about you, Iain?”

            “What about me,” Iain asked pleasantly. “I have no authority to force Texas to accept or refuse Louisiana’s offers, as you’ve pointed out before. I am present only by your request and the Vice President’s tolerance. If anything, I think of myself as an amicus curiae in this.”

            “You threatened to invade Louisiana if it didn’t join Texas,” Savoie pointed out.”

            Iain smiled. “As far as I am concerned, Ambassador Savoie, that was a long time ago.”

            “Yes, it was,” Savoie said with a smile. “And your forces are very busy in England, aren’t they?”

            “True,” Iain said as he rose. “And the Sisterhood forces involved are likely to remain there for some time.” He held out his hand. “Ambassador Savoie.”

            Savoie grinned and took Iain’s hand. “Found out that invasions aren’t as easy as you thought they were, didn’t you?”

            Lyons touched his phone and then stood as Savoie shook Iain’s hand. He shook hands with Savoie. “Ambassador, if Louisiana’s position changes, feel free to return.”

            “I will.”

            The door opened and Maisie peeked inside. “Sir?”

            “Ambassador Savoie is leaving, Maisie. Please see him out.”

            “Yes, sir.” She opened the door for Savoie. “Will there be anything else, sir?”

            “Not right now. Give me a few minutes before checking on me again, please.”

            “I will, sir.”

            The door closed as Lyons shook his head. “Well, now we know why they thought Texas would compromise on its principles.”


            Lyons sat down and motioned for Iain to do the same. “You heard him. He knows your forces are tied up in the UK and you can’t carry out your threat to expand into Louisiana. Because of that, they thought we’d jump at half a loaf.” He gave Iain a curious look at his chuckle. “What’s so funny?”

            “The idea that I am the iron fist of Texas is vastly amusing,” Iain reached for his tea. “We are not mercenaries, not like Savoie thinks. We’ve done a bit of garrisoning for Lorena, true, but neither Lucifer nor I would sell my clan’s services as an offensive arm of the TDF even if Lorena or Hays were shopping for assault troops.”

            “During our last meeting, you warned Savoie that if Louisiana didn’t bargain in good faith that you’d expand until you felt comfortable that you could defend your land in depth.”

            Iain smiled. “That was a much younger and stupider Iain. He thought that people would be reasonable. He thought warnings would make people understand things and, hopefully, not do anything incredibly dumb. He has since learned the error of his ways and grown into me.” He yawned. “I don’t give warnings. Is there anything else?”

            David shook his head before grinning. “Are you going to vote for me?”

            “Your main opponent is kind of a lunatic and wants to give the government a lot more power than it has now,” Iain said thoughtfully. “She’s not offering me any of that power, so I guess I’ll vote for you instead of her, even if she’s prettier than you are.” He gave David an amused smile. “What do you offer me?”

            David chuckled. “If I am elected President of Texas, I promise you that I will seriously reconsider the previous President’s refusal to grant your wish and fire you.”

            Iain laughed. “And, after this promised reconsideration, what will you be most likely to decide about my wish?”

            “I’ll probably find out that I reluctantly agree with her and determine that you’re too valuable to jettison just yet, but I do promise to reconsider her decision.”

            Iain held out his hand. “Well, that’s better than anything Lorena ever offered. You’ve got my vote.”

            Lyons took it with a grin. “That’s me, winning hearts one empty promise at a time.”

            “Typical fucking politicians,” Iain muttered. Both men laughed.


            Iain looked at the neatly lettered sign and laughed as he read it a second time. It read, in elven and then again in common: “Willingly passing this sign constitutes permission to be subjected to, in whole or in part, any experimentation or research that the owner of this property desires. DO NOT ENTER.” Smaller print at the bottom of the sign said: “Inability to read the languages this warning is written in does not release the trespasser from the above agreement.” The sign was placed next to a narrow path that meandered deeper into the woods.

            Iain’s heels tapped his horse’s flanks and the mare moved past the sign to follow the path. After a quarter hour it led him to a clearing. The clearing was populated with garden beds filled with fragrant flowers and herbs which surrounded the squat tower in the center.  To one side of the tower was a roofed gazebo with a porch swing hanging in it. Sitting in the swing was a man smoking a pipe which put out glowing blue smoke that swirled around above his head in a whirlpool.

            The man watched irritably as Iain swung down from the saddle and tied his horse to a tree. “Ye saw the sign,” he snapped.

            “I did,” Iain admitted cheerfully. “But even if I weren’t your former student and your current friend, it wouldn’t apply to me since I’m here at my mistress’ orders. That means I am here under duress, which means I didn’t willingly pass the sign.”

            Elminster grunted. “I’ll remove that word later.” He got up and bowed towards Iain, who bowed back. “What does Nightraven want?”

            “You have a piece of her property, that being the Fourth Chronicle of Telessarach the Melancholy, and it’s time to return it.” Iain untied his pack horse from his riding horse and tied it to a tree not far from the mare. He undid the saddlebags, lifted them free and draped them around his shoulders. “I stopped off on my way and picked up your favorite foods. Rumor has it you’ve gone back into seclusion again and I thought you might want to do it in style.”

            Elminster chuckled. “I have not gone into seclusion. I’ve been busy and it has kept me here.”

            “People like you and me are always busy.” Iain disappeared inside the tower, but his voice trailed behind him from the open doorway. “What’s the latest emergency that can’t wait? Who is threatening Toril or Faerun today?”

            Elminster snorted. “Ye know there’s always more than one at any given time.” He got up and went inside to watch Iain putting away things in the kitchen. “I could use yer help with one of them.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “There are some drow wizards who are trying to take control of the Weave. Ye know more about the drow than any surface dweller I’ve ever met. Ye know more than most drow do about themselves, too. It’s as if you’ve lived among them.”

            “Sometimes I feel like I have done just that. Is it Menzoberranzan?”

            “I can see where ye might suspect them of this, but no, this time the trouble is coming from Guallidurth.”

            Iain looked over his shoulder at Elminster. “That could be much more problematic than if it was originating in Menzo. Some of the houses of Guallidurth have some remarkable mages and are even accepting of sorcerers instead of seeing them as having tainted blood and purging them from their forces.”

            “Why do they accept something the other drow seem to universally condemn?”

            “Sorcery is commonly thought to be a product of having dragon lineage in your bloodline,” Iain explained as he finished unloading the saddlebags. “You and I know that isn’t necessarily true in most cases but it’s the common explanation and most drow accept that explanation too. That means it’s something that was introduced into the drow from an outside source and, unlike the fiendish influences they deliberately add, is something to be rooted out and destroyed.”

            “And in Guallidurth,” Elminster prompted. “Why is it different there?”

            “A common house,” he grinned suddenly, “which was House Dinaen, amusingly enough, didn’t have many mages and only a few priestesses. Its matron wanted to improve its station and one day she just happened to have a religious epiphany about sorcerers. Female drow show signs of sorcerous power just as frequently as males do. And priestesses of the Spider Queen can add some sorcerous magic to their repertoire and do even more nefarious things to their neighbors. Upon reflection, she decided that made sorcery a gift from the Spider Queen since females of both the common and noble houses were always pure of blood, except where they obviously weren’t.”

            Elminster shook his head. “That’s completely illogical.”

            “Logic does not enter drow cities,” Iain pointed out. “It knows it’ll be dragged over the closest alter and unceremoniously sacrificed to the Spider Queen as soon as the priestesses realize it’s there.” Elminster chuckled as he continued. “What happened is what always happens in drow communities. The noble houses scoffed at the matron’s stupidity up until the point where her house sorcerers were instrumental in the rapid overwhelming of three arguably more powerful houses in quick succession. Since, in the end, it’s all about power, and the Spider Queen didn’t forbid it, the matron’s epiphany quickly spread through the other houses and they began training their own sorcerers.” He poured two glasses of wine from an open bottle and handed one to Elminster. “Fortunately, so far at least, this epiphany hasn’t spread beyond Guallidurth to the other cities. I did a survey once and it turns out that drow tend to produce twice as many sorcerers in a given population when compared to any of the other elf species.”

            “And the last thing they need is more power,” Elminster observed sourly.

            “I agree with that sentiment, at least among the unrepentant drow.”

            Elminster raised an eyebrow. “There are repentant drow? That’s something I wasn’t aware of.”

            “Eilistraee’s worshippers try to get along with everyone else. She mandates they help others if they can and, often, they do exactly that, even knowing they’ll be despised for the most part. They can use all the extra power that they can get.”

            Elminster sipped his wine. “True, but they’re rarer than honest men in a thief’s guild. Are the wizards likely to work with the sorcerers?”

            “No, but they will provide another layer of security that will free up more mages to engage in troublesome experimentation and research. I’ll talk to Nightraven, but I doubt she’ll release me to help you with something as mundane as meddlesome drow.”

            “Ye call that mundane?”

            “Drow are always meddlesome. You know that as well as I do.”

            Elminster grumbled like a bear. “The Weave is important to us all and she should know that.”

            “She does. She’s just unlikely to be worried that some drow dilettantes are going to figure out how to mess with it. She won’t feel they’re the threat Karsus was and she ignored him too.” Iain drained his glass and refilled it with water. “Which is good for you since Karsus indirectly helped you out.”

            “What do ye mean by that?”

            “Without Karsus, there would be no Mystra. She’s a lot less fickle than Mystryl was. Cuter too.”

            Elminster shook his head. “How old are ye?”

            “When we met and when I was your student, I was a lot younger than you are. Now?” He shrugged. “I spent time in other universes and I am over the thousand years mark.”

            “Elves don’t live that long,” Elminster noted.

            “Neither do humans, human. And yet, here we are, two people who should logically be dead.”

            Elminster nodded. “Yer a Chosen. I can feel it. Yer energy is like mine and it tells me that ye are a Chosen of some god.”

            “Well, at least you didn’t say I had the outfit and that having the outfit made me a Chosen.”

            Elminster gave him a confused look. “What?”

            “Never mind. I doubt you’ve heard of the Smothers Brothers. Yes, I am a Chosen. You are too, oh Chosen of Mystra.”

            “How is it that ye know things like that?”

            “I’m Iain. I know things that I don’t normally talk about.”

            Elminster shook his head. “Yer not evil, or more accurately, ye don’t do evil, and ye worship Mielikki. Are ye her Chosen?”

            Iain looked at Elminster for several seconds. “Why should I tell you anything?”

            “We are friends, aren’t we? And ye know I can keep secrets secret.”

            “It’s not you I’m worried about.” Iain considered for a moment. “You know there are other worlds. You’ve been to Oerth and to Earth to meet with some buddies of yours.”

            “How,” Elminster broke off. “Ye know things.”

            “I do. Like I said, you’ve been to other worlds. What you don’t realize is that there are copies of worlds that coexist with each other. You know the very old elven name for this world is Abeir-Toril. Do you know what it means and what it implies?”

            “I do not.”

            “In one of the oldest dialects of elven it means Cradle of Life. But it was borrowed from an even older language, probably one of the dialects of Sarrukh.”

            “They’re a legend,” Elminster said.

            “They were real and were once the rulers of this world,” Iain corrected him. “And you can still find a few of them alive in places like Chult, but only if you know where to look. But that’s not germane to this discussion. What is important is that somewhere around thirty two thousand years ago, Ao broke Abeir-Toril into two mirror worlds, Abeir and Toril. This is Toril and it belongs to the gods. Abeir was given to the primordials and rotated around twenty degrees out of phase with Toril. It occupies the same space and shares the sun, but it is invisible and immaterial to people from this world most of the time. Toril is the same way to the people of Abeir.”

            “Who is Ao?”

            “He’s the overgod of this sphere. He creates and destroys gods here and they answer to him. There are mirror universes all around us. Many different Torils, each like the reflection in a mirror and, like an impure reflection, slightly different from this one and each other. I spent a lot of time on one of those and there I am a Chosen of two goddesses and a priestess for each of them. Here I am not, although I still have the gifts my goddesses gave me.”

            “Which goddesses do ye serve?”

            Iain sighed. “I serve Mielikki and Eilistraee.”

            “Well, that explains a great deal,” a female voice said.

            Iain turned and bowed to the nude nine foot tall drow that had suddenly appeared. “Lady Eilistraee. I hope I have not given you any offense.”

            “You have not. I sensed your presence some time ago. It was curious as I did not remember making you my Chosen or allowing you to be ordained as my priest.” She smiled slightly. “I would hope I would remember something like that, especially considering how few males are among my representatives.”

            “I’m still called a priestess,” Iain said. “And you have been more than generous in allowing me to retain my priestly powers while here.”

            “Why did she make you her Chosen? You are an unlikely choice, being male, not drow and not good.”

            “She did not explain her reasoning in explicit detail, Lady. She did mention that I had directly or indirectly rescued thousands of her worshippers from the unrepentant drow and protected her surface communities from its enemies while helping the local head priestess of Ilhar Mrimm develop and maintain cordial relations with the local elven communities.”

            Eilistraee cocked her head. “You did all that?”

            “That is what she said. I cannot attest to the indirect rescues of her worshippers.”

            “I want to talk to her.”

            Iain’s mouth dropped and he gaped at her for a second. “Lady, with all due respect, is that wise? Ao may not allow your duplicate to come here.”

            “Ao does not care about anything involving me,” Eilistraee said firmly. “I have never strayed from my portfolio and I serve my worshippers to the best of my abilities. I insist.”

            Iain glanced at Elminster, who was busy being as unobtrusive as possible without actually becoming invisible. “Lady, perhaps we should take this out of the presence of one of the Chosen of Mystra.”

            “Mystra is my friend and I am not trying to usurp her Chosen from her. And Elminster will serve as a conduit to her so she knows what happens here today and so feels no need to come here too.”

            Iain looked at Elminster. “Do you mind if I open a gate in your home?”

            Elminster grinned. “Please do. Just mind the walls and the furniture.” Eilistraee chuckled softly.

            Fuck. Iain opened a gate. He held up a hand and a small dragon appeared on his wrist. It spread its wings and zipped through the gate.

            “You send a messenger spell instead of going in person?” Eilistraee sounded surprised.

            “Lady, considering my mood right now, if I go through that gate I am unlikely to return through it.”

            Her moonstone colored eyes twinkled merrily and her tone was teasing. “Are you angry with me?”

            “Angry is not the word I would use,” Iain said tonelessly. “And please don’t ask me to tell you what word I would use to describe my mood right now. It’s not very nice.”

            Eilistraee laughed. Her laugh died several seconds later when Eilistraee exited the gate, followed a moment later by Mielikki. The two drow looked intently at each other for several seconds. “You are much younger than I am and yet, far more powerful.” She gestured towards Iain. ‘Is this all his doing?”

            “I would not say that it was all of his doing,” her counterpart said with a grin. “But he was instrumental in causing most of it to take place.”

            Iain looked back at Elminster. “You might want to leave while you can.”

            Elminster was unabashedly staring at the two nude women in his kitchen. He gave Iain a foolish grin. “Leave? Ye must be mad.”

            “You are such a letch,” Mielikki said. Elminster’s grin just widened. She looked at the Eilistraee from Twenty Three. “My analog is on her way, If you’re going to do this, do it now, before she gets here and the universe decides to unravel.”

            The newcomer held out her hand. “Take it.”

            Eilistraee smiled and grasped it. “Yes!’ Both goddesses blurred and flowed together to merge where their hands had touched. Elminster gasped.

            “I have this sudden urge to beat my head against the closest wall,” Iain said.

            “That would serve no useful purpose,” Eilistraee said as she gave him a fond smile. “You will serve me here as you have served me on Twenty Three.”

            “I’m Nightraven’s student here and she doesn’t give me a whole lot of free time.”

            Another Mielikki appeared. The one from Twenty Three smiled at her. “Do you agree to amalgamate too?”

            “I do.” They clasped hands and merged. Mielikki blinked twice. “Your relationship with me is very interesting, Iain. Nightraven?”

            Nightraven appeared. One eyebrow rose as she looked at the two goddesses, Iain, Elminster and the still open gate. “You have each joined with your counterparts from another world. Of course Iain would be involved somehow. Why have you called me, Lady Mielikki?”

            “I and my sister have made Iain our Chosen. He is needed to serve us here too and I would like you to give him time to attend to some tasks that we will give him.”

            “Iain still has many years of study with me,” Nightraven said evenly. “With the understanding that what I have to teach my student is far more important to his continued survival and success than wandering around this world waiting for you to find something for him to do, if you inform me of any dire requirements for his aid, I will release him for the duration of your need. If you desire something of a more personal level of attention from him, he has regularly scheduled free days and can contact you when he is starting one of them.” She looked at Iain thoughtfully for a moment before returning her attention to Mielikki. “For that understanding, when I release him to go home, as I do when his lessons are complete, I will inform you that he is free for your unrestricted use. Additionally, I will not seek to bring him back to my side for a minimum amount of time that we will negotiate out before the next full moon.” She glanced at Iain and her lips twitched at his narrowed eyes and the bunched muscles in his cheeks from where he was clenching his teeth. “You pledged yourself to me and you pledged yourself to them. Neither of us is going to just let you be free to do whatever you might want.”

            “Be that as it may, lady,” Iain said quietly, “I am not a side of beef to be haggled over.”

            “When gods are involved,” Nightraven said, “that is not true and you know that as well as I do.”

            Eilistraee and Mielikki exchanged a look. “You know that sometimes we will need him immediately. Otherwise, we agree with both your request and offer.”

            “And done,” Nightraven said. She looked at Iain. “Do not forget to bring back my book. Tarry no more.”

            “I will not, lady.” He sighed when she vanished.

            “You will resume your normal religious devotions as your time allows,” Eilistraee said.

            “I will.”

            Eilistraee glowed and became two of her. One waved, winked and headed back through the gate. The other chuckled, grinned at him and vanished.

            Mielikki divided in two. The first smiled at him. “I will return to One soon. I hope to see you there for we have much to discuss.”

            “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

            “I expect no less.” She nodded to Elminster and headed through the gate, which closed behind her.

            Mielikki looked evenly at him. “You will establish a colony of the clan here as soon as possible. You may pick the location, but please, do not delay overmuch. There is a lot that needs to be done.”

            “Yeah, I’ll need to find Wendonai here too,” Iain said quietly. “He’ll need to be dealt with.”

            “Eilistraee, my sister here,” Mielikki said, “is now powerful enough to withstand anything that Wendonai could try to do to her, thanks to this meeting.” She smiled. “And it doesn’t matter because you are not going to take a chance with her safety because she is clan now.”

            “Yeah. I’ll do the same for you.”

            “I know. It’s one of the many things I treasure about you, Iain. Will this be too confusing?”

            “I’ll just pretend that you’re dashing around between worlds like I do, so no. For all I know, you will be.”

            She smiled. “Yes, for all you know we already are. Be well, Iain.”

            “Be well, Mielikki.” She vanished and he groaned softly. “I am so fucking screwed and not in any sort of a fun way.”

            “The look Eilistraee gave ye as she left says ye might be wrong about that screwed not being any fun.” Elminster grinned into Iain’s glare.

            “Go get Nightraven’s book. After her comment about tarrying, I probably will give you my horses so I can get back to her tower today.”

            “I can’t take them,” Elminster said. Iain looked at him in surprise and he smiled. “Every time I own a horse I always end up having to ride it somewhere as the start of another stupid adventure. I’m tired of those so I don’t own horses.”

            “Then I’ll take them into Shadowdale and I’ll sell them to the merchant.” He shrugged. “Eh, that’ll waste time. If you want their tack I’ll just turn them loose.”

            “Are ye that afraid of Nightraven?”

            “Anyone whose brains haven’t softened would be,” Iain replied.

            “Yer right. Let me get that book.” There was a set of tightly spiraling stairs that went up in the center of the tower and Elminster used them to go upstairs. He was back a moment later with a large tome. “Where did that gate go to?”

            “As you suspect, it leads to another Toril.” Iain took the book. “Thank you.”

            “Is that where yer from?”

            “No, I live somewhere else. It’s an earth like where Ed Greenwood lives, but it’s very different. And the times are such that it’s before Mystra came into being or you were born.”

            “Can I visit ye there?”

            “You can. I’ll send you the coordinates and warn Theodora about your impending visit. She’s my guardian angel and watches over me when I’m home. She watches over our family, too.”

            “Ye have a family?” Elminster sounded surprised. “People like ye and me don’t usually have families.”

            Iain smiled. “I think you’ll like them. I think they’ll like you, for the most part.” He shoved the book into a tiny pouch. “Let me unsaddle my horses and turn them loose.”

            “Don’t do that here,” Elminster protested. “They’ll get into my gardens.”

            Iain shook his head. “I’ll leave their tack and cut them loose a few miles from here. Anything else?”

            “Mystra will probably come by after yer gone. What would ye like me to not tell her?”

            Iain laughed. “Does it really matter?”

            “Well, no.”

            “Tell her everything. Mystra is friends with Eilistraee and she gets along reasonably well with Mielikki, at least for now.”

            “What does that mean?”

            “They merged. Where I come from, Mielikki’s portfolio includes magic, so it could be that the one here now does too. I doubt they’ll have any conflicts.”

            “I’ll be sure to let Mystra know about that,” Elminster said.

            Iain headed outside and stripped the gear from the horses, leaving only their leads. He led them down the trail until it turned onto the wider thoroughfare before untying them and shooing them in the direction of Shadowdale. Then he teleported to Nightraven’s tower.

            He headed inside. “Lady, I’ve returned with the book you wanted me to retrieve.”

            Return the book to the library and then come to the north battlement.

            Iain headed downstairs. He found where the book belonged and reshelved it before heading upstairs.

            Nightraven was leaning against the stone and had apparently been waiting for him. “Caintigern acts as if the location you searched out for her to build a place to teach you is a courting gift and is pleased that you have not done so for me.”

            “I take it you’re not happy with her behavior.”

            Her eyes met his. “I am not happy with her behavior, but I tolerated it since this is my home and where I teach my students without being interrupted. The presence of your goddesses will change that. They will interrupt my teaching and I find that intolerable.”

            “What would you have me do?”

            “You cannot send them away. It does, however, give you the opportunity to find me a new place to build a teaching facility for you on another world, just as you have done for Caintigern.”

            “Do you want a place in the same region and at the beginning of the Dawn Age?”

            “Why did you choose that particular time?”

            Iain smiled. “I chose it because I didn’t have to be concerned about dealing with another Nightraven since it was before you came to Toril. Caintigern had said it wasn’t an issue and that she would kill any foreign Nightraven if it became necessary. I didn’t want her to get a taste for killing anyone who resembled one of my mates and so removed that possibility as an option.”

            Nightraven’s eyes searched his for several seconds before she nodded gracefully. “Thank you. I do not wish her to get a taste for that either and it neatly avoids another Nightraven trying to claim you as her mate.”

            “Yeah, that’s something else I was concerned about.”

            “That explains why you chose that time period. Why did you choose that location?”

            “Are you familiar with the events of that time period?”

            Nightraven shook her head. “It was never important to me since I arrived some time after the Dawn Age was over.”

            “During the Dawn Age, which was starting, dragons took over much of the world and established dominion over much of the lands and waters. They were also beginning the religious wars that would later be called the Draco Holy Wars, which were a series of wars between and inside draconic religions over various disputes in their theology. The most famous of those is the Dragonfall War between Tiamat’s worshippers and Bahamut’s. At the same time, the giant overgod, Annam, established the giant kingdom of Ostoria. Eventually the dragons and the giants fought a vicious series of wars over the land of central and northern Faerun. The place I picked for Caintigern was close to where Kara Tur would eventually be and far from the boundaries of Ostoria and far from the areas where the dragon ruled lands were concentrated. Caintigern told me that she wanted a place where she could teach. Having regular battles with giant forces and expansionist, zealot or horny dragons seemed to be something to avoid in order to make her lessons go more smoothly. If she wants treasure, we can seek them out without them knowing where to come for reprisal attacks.”

            “That makes sense and shows you are a much more thoughtful drake than most that I remember. I would like similar conditions around where I will continue your instruction, but I would not like the exact same location that she chose.”

            “I took her to the area. Once there, we searched around before she picked the final site. You can do the same thing. If, somehow, you pick the exact same place she did, I’ll warn you.”

            Nightraven gave him a curious look. “Do you understand the significance of your offer?”

            “I think I do. It’s a collaborative effort, the same as if we were looking for a suitable place to raise our children. The People don’t do that much anymore, since the drakes are not really all that involved with child rearing and have not been for several hundred generations, but it’s still a powerful gesture for a drake to make towards a dragoness.”

            “I had wondered if you were reading the books you gathered for more than just research into the best place to intervene. I am pleased to find that you are.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “I would like to see this time and region, but on a different world than the one Caintigern is using.”

            “I have a world already picked out for us.”

            She looked out over the field around her tower for a moment. “Are you aware that you are much more experienced and comfortable with dimensional traveling than Caintigern or I am?”

            “I hadn’t really thought about it.”

            “I have done very little dimensional travel since coming here and Caintigern stopped traveling once she found her forest.” She glanced back at him. “The People do not travel much. Very few have the curiosity that you do regarding what lies through the next gate. Only a tiny number of that group ever indulges that curiosity. I value your help in aiding us to reclaim the throne of the People.” She turned to face him. “I picked you to help me do this, but you have done far more than I ever expected or hoped for. You have shouldered the load of a dragoness, not a drake. Even then, most dragonesses would not have worked as tirelessly as you have. I am pleased and impressed with your behavior.”

            “I still haven’t given up on finding a way to make what you want work.”

            “Let it go for now, Iain. Take me to this world that I may select a site for a new fortress where I can complete your training.”

            Iain opened a gate and motioned her through. He followed and the gate closed behind them.


            “May I have some of your time?”

            Iain looked up from his book and smiled at Kasserine. “Only if you snuggle with me.”

            She smiled and happily settled down against him, making a contented noise as he put his arm around her waist and pulled him more firmly against his side. Kasserine rested against him for several minutes before speaking again. “I always think I’m dreaming when I’m with you. I fear that I will wake up and find that I am back in Drelagara and you’re a figment of my imagination.”

            “Well, this is real and this is going to be the way your life is for as long as we both live. I am your husband and you are my wife.”

            “It makes me so happy to hear that,” she said. They sat together for several more minutes. Eventually, Iain went back to his studies. “Is Ava pregnant?”

            Iain started in surprise. “Not that I am aware of. I agreed not to try to get her pregnant until after she’s of age, which will be in another four months. Why do you ask?”

            Kasserine lifted her head to look at him. “For the last week, whenever I reverie, I wake up thinking of lambs.” Iain merely waited with a curious expression on his face and she smiled. “So you do not know everything about me.”

            “I have never claimed to, nor would I want to. You are a woman, and all women keep their mysteries close so they can hint at them to fascinate and ensnare the men around them. I enjoy that game too much with you.”

            Kasserine’s cheeks flushed and she laughed softly. “Even now, you can still make me blush.”

            “While I sometimes enjoy making you blush, I always enjoy hearing you laugh. It means I’m doing something right.”

            Kasserine’s face turned serious. “I laughed very seldom before meeting you, Iain.”

            “And that’s why I love hearing you when you do.” He waited a few seconds before prompting her. “So, I take it that thinking of lambs does not mean you have a craving for mutton.”

            Kasserine smiled. “It does not. I have only thought regularly about lambs while waking up from reverie twice before.” Her eyes met his. “Both times I soon discovered that I was pregnant, first with Kerrik and then with Ava.” She twined her fingers in his. “You agreed to keep from trying to impregnate Ava until she is an adult. Thus my question about Ava.”

            “Ava is not pregnant yet. In spite of what she wants, I made an agreement with you and I have kept it.”

            “Thank you, Iain. I realize that I sound absurd. Ava’s situation is completely different from what mine was when I became pregnant with Kerrik. She is not part of the court, she loves you very much and you love her. Her children will always have a father and she will have a partner in you and the enthusiastic support of the rest of the clan, whereas I had none of that.”

            “Just don’t forget that you have that now. I love you and you love me. You will never be alone again, even if the worst happens and I am killed. You are clan and you are part of our extended family and that will survive me if it must.”

            Kasserine gave him a quick kiss. “That is more than enough talk about death, Iain. I am a wizard and I was trained to the same standards that Selsharra was. We will make sure that you cannot leave us that easily. And as soon as we can, Ava will begin her training to the same standard.”

            “Is the clan going to have its own collection of High Elven Mages?”

            “Selsharra knew where the repository of High magic was held and it is one of the places that Eirian and the others entered. They did not steal anything, but they copied the entire repository and it is part of my library,” Kasserine gave him a satisfied smile. “Ava does not have the passion to be a true High Mage, but she wants to learn as much as she can and Selsharra and I will teach her.” Her eyes searched his. “You too, if you wish.”

            “I wish.”



Iain Grey



Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Zareen - Nightmare

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Marguerite – Unicorn

Scheherazade – Dread Wolf

Irena – Sanctuary Goth

Lynn – Dire Wolf

Rosemary – Mistoffeles

Dianthus – Elfqueen

Candace – Nurse Joy (kami)

Bellona – Dragonqueen

Elizabeth – Vampire

Matilda - White Tigress

Sorrel - Armsmistress



Outer Clan

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female


Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins


Queendom / Outer Clan

1048 Elves & Elfqueens

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves


Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

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


Mother                        Children



                                    Myrna (Age 4)



                                    Dorothy: Duelist (Age 3)

                                    Meara: Duelist

                                    Regan: Duelist


                                    Olivia: Megami Sama (Age 6)

                                    Seraphina: Megami Sama

                                    Miram: Angel (Age 5)



                                    Caltha: Nightmare (Age 0)

                                    Kim:  Nightmare

                                    Xanthe: Nightmare

                                    Epona: Nightmare

                                    Philippa: Nightmare

                                    Nott: Nightmare

                                    Nyx: Nightmare



                                    Anna: Ria

                                    Esmerelda: Ria


Monica Chambers

                                    James: Jamie Harris kid (Age 2)