Since true names were being used, to keep things as uncomplicated as possible the ritual of transference was done in private while Grimalkin was sedated for fitting the tortuous devise. Even though Wren had no clue of what it entailed, a layer of reality bunched within Glaucous' realm where it was taking place. This made Wren wonder why the things he did seemed to piss off the Great Pattern so much when things like the use of true names to disregard the natural order of things didn't, or at least Troy seemed to intimate that the consequences weren't any more or less severe than any other exercise of power.
“It's pretty simple. When you use your power, do you think about balancing it out?” said Silent Mind.
“Explain what you mean and I might be able to answer your question without resorting to smarmy one-liners.” said Wren, annoyed at the presence he couldn't shut out, once again disrupting his private thoughts.
Ever since he'd awakened after the merkaba incident, as he liked to refer to it, the little metal splinter that had fused into his astral shell would frequently answer rhetorical self asked questions and offer redundant advise. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that the thoughts of Silent mind were just as loud as his own. Once in awhile though, it'd pop out with a thought that would help Wren guide a more meaningful question to Drafodil. It's own thoughts were a chaotic mess of piece meal knowledge it had obtained from those it had affected. This combination of useful/useless had tempted him several times to figure out a way to remove it but fall short of doing more than think about it.
“You've kinda already put the answer together, I just want to help you pull it out... Does my attempts to be helpful really bother you that much?” Silent Mind said, baffled.
“No offense. I know it's not like you have a choice but yeah, a little. I'll learn to live with it, I guess,” Wren said as kind as he could.
“I'll try to keep my thoughts quieter... Maybe there will be chances for me to find a new vessel in the future. It would be nice to have a tangible form again. A good soul forged metal or top tier artifact again would be the best!”
“Yeah, cool... You said something pretty interesting this time, though. I mean, I was thinking about it already but go ahead and explain what you meant by balancing my power,” Wren said, slightly interested in silent mind's chatter for a change.
“Your powers pretty much stem from the idea of taking the basic building blocks of reality and making what you want, even from just the energy alone. That's cool when your just making hotels and things like that but when you use your power to make things that don't really belong somewhere or bring potential out of people, you're adding things to reality without taking something else away.
“The only thing I can add to stuff you already know is a bit of knowledge I got from an angel's projection I thought froze multiple times because my handler didn't want them to resurrect an enemy she just killed. Angels of death, who collect souls ahead of time out of mercy, balance them out. To give a life you got to take one. I would assume that to mean that when you awaken a power you got to put one to sleep. What makes the Great Pattern get warped is when more or less of something is in a place than there should be... Yeah, That's the right track you're on. Sorry for stepping on your thought toes again but just let me get this out of my system one more time. I think I'm being helpful for real this time.” Silent Mind paused to make sure it wasn't upsetting Wren.
“Well, my train of thought just derailed into an orphanage anyway. Knock yourself out... Shit, not for real! I mean go ahead and finish your thought so I can get back to mine... How long is their ritual going to take!?... Don't...Don't try to answer that. Just finish what you were going to say,” Wren said then sighed.
Silent Mind said, “You've eaten a lot of curses. Curses and enchantments are two sides of the same coin. If you can make an artifact that accomplishes your goal then you will still cause ripples but it should just be settling ripples. You ate, two low potential Tier VIII and one high potential tier VII, curses. That's a lot of wiggle room for enchantments. You can work with that... The last warning I can think of to give, comes from a chunk of memory that got stuck on loop after I was shoved into the eye socket of an ascended monk, 'A single pebble in the road may hold more importance than an entire army if it will be used to kill a tyrant.'
“Don't sweat it too hard. The Great Pattern exists to keep things balanced out. As long as you're making an earnest and logical effort to keep the things you do from tipping scales beyond what the average person of your existence tier can do, then the Great Pattern shouldn't go too far out of it's way to bitch slap you. It's not really a punishment after all. The backlash is part of the checks and balances. Since you have access to abilities far beyond that of the average peer, it's easier for you to earn yourself a 'check' in the nuggets,” Silent Mind finished happily.
Wren thought at Glaucous, “Not to sound over eager here but how much longer do I have before the ritual you guys are doing is complete?”
Glaucous replied, “Gathering the remnants of Ephyra's power enough to complete the transference is taking more effort than it should... About three hours, according to Troy.”
Just sitting around here is making me jittery and I have a task I haven't completed for Usuway yet. Might as well make the most of my time.
Wren thought at Jaden, “Mind calling me in? I'd like to chat with you and Lilly before... well, you know. Just sitting here waiting is making me a nervous wreck.”
Wren popped in to the realm inside Jaden and Lilly's room. It wasn't where he expected to be and Jaden wasn't in the mood he expected to find him in.
“Why the long face, Jay?” Wren said anxiously.
Please tell me he's not this broken up over not being able to bang a temporary chick version of me.
Forlorn, Jaden raised his head from his hands to look at Wren before he said, “I've disappointed Lilly, Wren. It's only natural that I'd be happy to have a child with my mate. I-no, I'll not try to defend myself. She's right to be upset and since I'm in a mood of contrition I want to offer my apologies to you as well. I may not have broken my word to you but I did not honor the spirit of it's meaning.”
Wren sat beside Jaden and put an arm around him as he said, “It's cool, um, heart-brother. I know you got a side of you that's a little more in tune with the law of nature and all that jazz. I'm not gonna embarrass myself by trying to guess exactly why Lilly's mad but as far as you and I go, we're good. I just hope this whole experience hasn't soured things between you and your dad. He's trying hard to understand us cause he's trying to make up for his past mistakes. Having a tight relationship with his living son is important to him.”
Jaden's face took on the ghost of anger for a second before he blew it out with a deep sigh then said, “I'm the last person who should be holding issue with another over their nature being difficult to deal with, especially since it's my father. I'll make an effort to mend things with him after I've gathered myself.” Jaden looked at Wren soulfully before continuing, “Our connection, not our bond or friendship, is something that should not have been possible. Usuway was even a little surprised by it. Her best guess is that there was more than just a little of you in Lilly when I imprinted on her as a mate... Even from an early age I do not remember ever having desire for any male, even in the abstract. I still don't, with you being the exception. It made me irrational, the idea of union with you as a woman...
“I'm not saying this because I have regrets over our bond or even that you are an unexpected exception in my life. If anything, I feel blessed. For one such as myself, who was made by nature to only ever have one love, to have been granted the ability to include you in my joy has made my heart full, full to bursting. A few hardships for such a blessing is a small thing. I fear to cause you regret. Now, I face the fear of causing Lilly more grief as well.
“Had my motivations been to save your child and out of love, Lilly would not have been angry at all. She could tell that was only half. I'll admit that desire to mate with you for offspring was a temptation that rose beyond just mere instinct. I lusted for it as well, all of me. If I could, when you offer me comfort, I would want you as a woman. That is just the shape of my desire, not the way I see you. It is a selfishness that threatens to make lie of the vow I made to Lilly on our wedding, if only the spirit and not the letter. I knew what I meant and what she wanted our vows to mean.”
Wren said, “I hope you do not take this as a betrayal but I have been sending this conversation to Lilly as we have spoken. She want's to see us both. I think she didn't actually mean for you to take this as hard as you are. It feels as if she's trying to convey that she was more frustrated that she couldn't get through to you when she needed, for her heart's sake, for you to hear her.
“While we're at it, you'll get to see me give out an apology or two my self. Awhile back, when we, you know. I was worn to a nub, physically and mentally. I kinda dumped Liita into the pond and I never got around to making that up to her. I've never took the time to figure out how Liita would like to be seen either. I'm pretty sure that's got Lilly miffed at me too, being how tight they are.”
A small smile graced Jaden's face as he said, “Liita took that poorly, Wren. After her temper cooled, however, she channeled it in a positive direction. Sable often complements her temerity in training since that day. She has a fire in her heart that matches well with the warrior she wishes to be. I think she's more grateful to you than she is angry, at this point, but an act of contrition would definitely go a long way towards warming Bress back up to you... Come to think of it, I've never really taken the time to see how Liita desires to be seen either. This is an excellent opportunity to show some action to go with my words of contrition for my love.”
As the two made their way to the grove they discussed their strategies and Wren also filled Jaden in on Usuway's last request.
“Eldest Wren, I hope the day sees you well,” Bress said a little frostily as the 'heart-brothers' approached.
As Wren handed her an enchanted pair of glasses he said, “Back at ya. These glasses will correct your vision over time and even after your vision is repaired they will help you avoid eye strain and even a little mental fatigue from long hours of reading. Take them as one half of the apology I'd like to offer Liita for my shortness last month.
“The other half is this prototype spear that has the ability to disrupt the thoughts of the target on a successful hit. It should go a long way towards giving her the edge she would need against someone like myself if ever she finds herself pitted against such a foe. When she is free from training and duties, I'd also like the chance to meet with her in person to offer my apology for that bit of rudeness.”
Liita came out of the cottage in the grove and said, “No need to wait and in earnestness, no need for apology. You pointed out a lack within myself for what I wish to be and became a motivation for correcting it. The spear is appreciated and I'm shameless enough to take help where I can get it.”
Wren chuckled and said, “That's not being shameless. That's being wise. I think the few band proven runners I've seen getting a mud hole stomped into their butts by Glaucous' children could stand to learn that lesson from you... I'm going to ask something a little awkwardly because I don't really know how it should be said. Beyond your position as a guardian of the grove and status as a warrior how do you wish to be seen by Jaden and I, by everyone. For example, I've known a person who was born as a woman but saw themselves as a man and identified themselves that way.”
Liita gazed out, lost in thought, before replying a short time later, “There were many times, growing up, that I had desired to be born a man. That desire sprung from my wish to be a warrior and later, a distaste for laying with men. I am comfortable in this body and now that I pursue my desires without my gender being an obstacle, I no longer find myself wishing to be a man... I am uncertain if this answers your question or not but there it is, all the same.”
Wren said, “I only ask in an effort to be more respectful. As a close friend of my bonded and a person I see as a friend to myself as well, I want to support you as you pursue your goals... I've heard you have distinguished yourself in the eyes of Sable and if he's even half the hard ass he gives off the vibes of being as a teacher, that's an accomplishment worthy of respect.”
Liita blew out a hard breath as she said, “That's a relief to hear. I've struggled some days to rise to his challenge and do not perform as well as some of his younger pupils often. Walking away from his training with my bruises sporting bruises is somewhat disheartening at times.
Wren made the customary gesture of physicians requesting permission to perform needful touching, a gesture he wished he'd learned a long time ago, before running a touch of healing through her after he received her consent. After which he supplied her with a set of performance supplements he had discussed the making of with Sable during a moment of free time during the festival. He gave a few more words of encouragement before receiving her salute and the two women made a polite exit for the men to speak with Lilly in private.
Wren took a moment to gather himself before turning to tree Lilly and getting to what brought him here. “I see Little Sprite's shaping up nicely. Still green, so I'm assuming there's a bit of time left to go before the happy day?”
“About another six months realm side. Not that I'm complaining but she's taking her sweet time and she's quite the glutton. If you could touch up a bit of EE reserves before you leave it would be much appreciated,” Lilly thought at him.
Wren brightened up as he said, “Oh, so you can directly converse now!? That's great news!”
Lilly huffed mentally and said, “That's no baloney your talking there, no doubt about it. Being ready to pop my top off gave me a push to it, I suppose.”
“I'm going to assume Jaden's spoke to you about Usuway and I have, um, more pleasant things I'd rather be thinking about so I'll keep it brief. Usuway gave me a message for you and an artifact for Little Sprite. I may be paraphrasing a bit here but she said you shouldn't use your tree to have anymore babies. She made it sound like your tree is a gate and since it swung to the life side for this kid it could swing the other way for another one.
“Then there is this. It's a singularity arc. It creates a dimensional distortion around the life it's bonded to and sends them to a safe place that they know or that the person who gifted it knows. It also has the function of acting like an inheritance. There is no telling what the lady knew but its a teacher in a can. It's for Little Sprite.
“Coolest thing about it is that you don't have to hold on to it. It can be bonded safely to a developing baby and it will protect the mother too. You'll even have a bit of access to the the inheritance function until Little Sprite's born! Drafodil told me it's perfectly safe.
“Oh, yeah. So I freaked when my pop's mark disappeared one day to be replaced seconds after with Drafodil's. She was my pop's student and even though she's a bit honey badger, she's definitely got it all figured out. I've had a few opportunities to benefit from her knowledge already.”
Jaden said, “Ancestor Usuway had mentioned the ark when she was speaking to me but I wasn't really worried about it till Little Sprite was born but if Lilly can be protected and even learn somethings from it then she should get it as soon as possible.”
Lilly thought to them, “Little Sprite's the official nickname then? I'll accept that, since I'm naming her... If it's all for the best then I'm fine with this ark thing but not until I speak with this Drafodil person myself.”
Wren gave his affirmative and summoned his mentor. After explaining the reason for summoning her, Drafodil gave Lilly all the knowledge she had on the singularity ark. Apparently it was a pretty high profile item for important people who had dangerous jobs within the SYSTEM. Since she was in the middle of an experiment that she wanted to be 100% for she asked to keep it short and sweet this time so Wren relented and unsummoned her.
Still a little apprehensive but not seeing any reason to say no, Lilly accepted the mylar sticker like dot on Little Sprite's swelling, globular fruit.
I'm sorry but being able to see a vague baby shape inside a fruit skin is a little scary, okay. Since Lilly can make peaches why couldn't it have been more Momotaro and a little less Berserk.
After business was done, Wren sat with the couple and caught up with Lilly. The best part of the remaining couple of hours of waiting was filled with Lilly's take on recent events and a little mediation between the couple over the baby daddy drama which went relatively smoothly now that Lilly could get things off her chest calmly. Seeing Lilly and Jaden patch things up soothed Wren down. For once, he didn't even mind the flagrant mushiness.
Wren stood pole-axed as he was introduced to the female Grimalkin. Glaucous even dug up a diaphanous nightgown from his collection of memorabilia left by his mother for the stunning and petite creature that stood before him.
I feel like a shit for wishing that he could stay this way. My Little Gray's always been glompable but damn, just damn. Gonna do my best to give this one night blossom a 21 gun salute, one round at a time...
“I'm going to say this for the record, Little Gray. I'd love you no matter how you look but I'm glad you weren't born a woman or I don't think I'd have ever got the chance to meet you. You're beautiful,” Wren said, his voice growing thick. It wasn't the only thing.
Grimalkin's cheeks took on a purple hue as she said, “J-just for tonight, it's alright for you to see me as I am if it brings you joy.”
Wren's grin was so wide it made his jaw muscles hurt as he drew Grimalkin to him, caressing her back. Using his hands he traced every contour of this Grimalkin, committing it to memory. As he brushed his lips against the side of Grimalkin's neck he took in the faint scent of fresh cut bamboo and mint that was distinctly Grimalkin but also different with the unmistakable musk of feminine arousal added. Wren paused for a moment when he noticed a deep scratch on Grimalkin's arm.
He said, “Where did this come from?”
Grimalkin pointed at the the chained spike laying on the floor by the bed as she said, “I used Still Body to save myself pain as Troy helped me fit myself with the device.”
“Why did that not leave any mark on you? More importantly are you in any pain?” Wren asked.
“N-no... When he did the ritual, the essence of the devise fused the curse into me instead. It won't be a problem for you to eat that will it? I-I want to bring you as much happiness as I am able b-but I really don't want to stay this way forever. I mean, I will for you, if you truly wish it bu-” Grimalkin was interrupted by a gentle but insistent kiss.
Wren whispered, “Your happiness is just as important to me, Little Gray. That you'd do so much for me, how could I ask for more?”
Grimalkin smiled and said, “Then for this night, I'm your woman. Will you take and get me with child, h-husband?”
With a shaky hand, Wren took the pellet and let it do its thing as he reached to slip the nightgown off her shoulders. Wren admired his lovely night bride. Small, round breasts led to the soft but still athletic plains of her belly. As his eyes greedily swallowed this vision, he took notice of the still smooth and hairless state below.
Am I going to be able to look at my little kitten in the future and not want this again? For the sake of love and Little Gray's happiness, I have to try.
Wren laid her down with the care of a curator handling a priceless relic. Grimalkin was a little confused by the gesture, especially since her knees down were still dangling off the bed. It didn't take long to figure out why.
As Wren moved her knees apart and knelt between them he said, “Since you have done so much for me, let me reward you with a kiss that only a woman can know.”
“Birdy, what are you doing? It's embarrassing for you to stare so. Please just do-ah!” Grimalkin lost her words as Wren's lips and tongue showed exactly what he meant. “Sh-shadow, shade and n-night!”
Not wanting to miss the sweetness of his kitten's first fulfillment, he drew her as close to the edge as he dared before rising and pushed himself within her at a measured pace. All the while, he continued to circle and press his thumb against her sensitive pearl. He stilled for a moment once he was fully against her.
Grimalkin's back slightly arched as her eye's went wide with surprise, stimulation and just the smallest amount of confused discomfort.
Wren leaned down to worked his arms under and around her then whispered, “Hold fast to me, kitten. You feel so good, I don't think I'll last long but I want you to join me if you can.”
Grimalkin latched her legs and arms around Wren as he kept his upper body as still as he could to passionately kiss her, the flavor of her shared between them. He rolled his hips into her as she rocked hers against him. The way she desperately dug her fingers into the muscles of his back reminded Wren of the time when Grimalkin had just been healed, too weak to even speak well but still clutching with all Grimalkin had to keep Wren right there. The tightness in his chest was almost painful as he felt himself reaching the end of his endurance.
“I love you Little Gray,” Wren said as he felt her insides tighten around him, breaking his resolve and releasing into to her even as the space of their joining grew slick with her pleasure.
“Love... too... w-with all I have, all I am.” Grimalkin said, tears welling in her eyes.
Overcome with the fullness of the moment, Wren felt silent tears fall down his own face as they held on to each other. Twice more they found that fullness with each other again before, emotionally drained, they fell asleep in each other's arms.
Wren woke up the next morning feeling a completion and satisfaction the likes of which he couldn't describe with words. As he looked to Grimalkin curled in his arms, protectively clutching a feathery edged and silky oval chrysalis, he realized it didn't matter what form Grimalkin had. Having returned to the boyishly charming man he had been, Wren didn't feel the slightest bit of regret. This was the love he had never known, didn't even know he had been searching for, until it stuck him with a blow dart.
Maybe I'll always crave a woman's touch, like perfectly crisp bacon or a medium steak, but this guy here will always have my heart. He's completely stolen it from me and even if he knew how to give it, I don't think I'd want it back.
Wren reluctantly got dressed and attuned the ark to his son before waking up Grimalkin.
“Greet the day, love. Let's go introduce our child to his grandfather and our friends so I can put him back in his nest to soak up some essence,” Wren said tenderly.
“C-can I hold him like this for a little longer, Birdy?” Grimalkin said, his arms tightening a little around the Chrysalis as he gave Wren a reluctant look.
Gah! Damn it, you little demon! I'm trying to get my sappy shit together over here.
After enduring a little ribaldry from Troy and awkward congratulations from Glaucous, they made their rounds before Grimalkin, influenced by Lilly, asked about baby showers. That particular conversation led to an impromptu party that had the 'mothers', the 'guardians' and even Jhessa shooing off the rest after extorting Wren for conjured supplies.
“I think the proper reply to this kind of situation is to go to the beach and get hammered,” Troy offered helpfully.
“Gotta stick nearby so when the weirdos are done I can put Little Omelet in his nest but you guys can go ahead. Lilly said she can let me in now that she can reach out, Jaden,” Wren said a little bummed.
“One day into being a father and what little bit of fun you'd allow yourself just got sucked out... What about you three?” Troy smiled mischievously.
After Jaden saw that Wren was serious about being alright with milling around by himself and prompted by Glaucous that this would be a good chance to bury their squabble, the two agreed leaving Sable.
“I'll stay here. My son-in-law and I need to have a talk about private matters now that I've caught him free, an increasingly difficult endeavor these days,” Sable drawled.
The three beach bound men took their leave which caused an awkward silence to fall before Sable broke it by saying, “Jhessa has been late for her monthly blood for two weeks. Do you think that after they are done you could...”
Wren said, “No need, she is. Why do you think Lilly asked her to stay? It's not like anyone knows her that well. Lilly wants to get her in the circle now that she's carrying Little Gray's sibling.”
Sable snatched Wren up into a crushing hug that had him weakly beating on Sable's back for air. Eventually Sable let Wren go but the smile on Sable's face gave him goosebumps.
That is the face of a serial killer who found the perfect victim... Give him a break, self. This may be one of who knows how few smiles of his entire life.
“Blessed with knowledge of a child and a grandson in the same day. In all of the things I have done, what was so good among it to have such a moment in my life.” Sable said.
A booming voice from the sky said, “So this is where the abomination and that bitch's descendants are... Shi 'I nan, You have five minutes before this area will be swarmed with Guardians. Have your family claim as many as they dare. I have business elsewhere. Usuway, I will kill every last one of your children. How dare you use the abomination as a trap for us! Now they will suffer in your stead!