| Find Chapter 1 here
Chapter 2 is here
Chapter 3 is here
Chapter 4 is here
Chapter 5 is here
Chapter 6 is here
Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Chapter 10: here
Chapter 11 (R-Rated) here
Chapter 12: here
Chapter 13: here
Chapter 14: here
Chapter 15: here
You can skip Chapter 11 without losing the plot.
“How long have you been listening?” Jaco didn’t, Sefton noticed, move out into Taisiya’s view, and he did lift the hook off of the bandit.
“Only a moment. There were quite a few of them out front, as well, and we were trying to catch this one’s mate. Lost him, unfortunately.”
“I know where he was going!” squeaked the bandit on the floor.
“Jaco, Feltian, Hothyan, I believe I gave an order. In. Now. Make sure the children are fine.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Sefton bowed as deeply as he dared without exposing Jaco, and waited for the older husband to head into the nursery before he went.
The door thudded closed behind them. Jaco leaned against the wall and sighed.
“Thank you, brother,” he muttered.
Sefton smirked. “I did nothing. Good blade-work out there.”
“You’d better get the chains back on,” Hothyan fretted, “before mother sees you like that. You remember what happened last time.”
“I remember, I remember.” Jaco grimaced. “Give me a hand with them?”
Sefton started putting weapons away and urging the older children out from their hiding-places. “It’s safe,” he assured them, “your mother and fathers are safe.”
The girl who had asked him to tell her a story looked up at him with wide eyes. “We were listening,” she informed him. “The bandit that wasn’t. That’s bad?”
“It could be bad,” he allowed. “What’s your name, sweet pea?”
“Pherishhe.” She worried her lip. “Wives are supposed to keep their husbands safe, aren’t they?”
“And husbands to aid their wives in defense.” That was – well, it was true, and it was accepted teaching, but it was usually the sort of teaching that you did with boys and not with girls. “Like your fathers Onter and Calum help your mother out there in the battle. And, because husbands are supposed to protect the egglings above all else in their life, your father Jaco and I stay here, to protect you.” He patted her head carefully.
“It’s…” She didn’t look reassured, and Sefton started to worry that he had told her different things than her mother or fathers had. “I mean, um. To defend your husbands, wives fight, right?”
“When the home is attacked, yes.” She should have started combat training by now, if she was old enough to make full sentences. No, Sefton corrected himself, if she’d been in the home he’d grown up in, that would be the case. He had no standing to make assumptions like that here. “There are turrets on the corners of your mother’s home. You’ve seen them, right?”
She was starting to leak silent tears. Sefton tried hard not to panic, to keep his expression and his voice calm. These weren’t his sisters. He couldn’t risk making them cry and get away with it because one of his fathers liked him.
“Hey, sweet pea,” he coaxed, dropping to his knees so he could look her in the eye. “what’s wrong?”
She wrapped both her arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly. Not too startled by this — he was oldest of a whole shellful, after all — Sefton patted her back soothingly.
The hug put her in position to whisper in his ear. “I’m scared of guns. I don’t like… I don’t like making holes in people.”
She was far too young to be making holes in people, and on that matter Sefton would stand by his opinion.
“Well, eggling, there are a lot of ways to get around that.” Sefton got comfortable. “One of them is by learning to make your shots from a very long distance, so that you don’t have to see the holes close-up. Another is to find one of the distant houses, that aren’t too likely to be attacked, but that puts you very far from your mother’s nest-home here, and, well, those houses aren’t usually the best for earning money. There’s not much crop to be pulled from a cliffside.”
His younger sister had been contemplating one of those houses. Now Sefton was forced to wonder if she, too, had been motivated by not wanting to put holes in people.
“But what if I want to stay close?”
“Well then, there’s the Academy, if you’re very very lucky, or,” he thought quickly, “we can train in ways to stop people without putting holes in them. I know a few, and I’m sure your fathers Ont—”
“No!” she hissed. “No, not Father Onter for Father Calum, and probably not Father Jaco, either. They want to make everything work out so I do what mother wants, but me… I mean…” She peered up at him with wide blue eyes.
Sefton sighed. “Okay, Pherishhe. I won’t tell your fathers. But that means you’re going to have to be very careful, all right?”
She stared at him for a moment. “Keeping secrets is against the rules,” she whispered.
“It is,” he agreed solemnly. He wasn’t going to lie to her and tell her it wasn’t. “It’s very against the rules. But…” Something shifted in him, something he hadn’t know was there to be moved at all. “You are my daughter, yes, little one?”
“Ye-” She considered it. Good. “Yes. That’s right. You’re my junior father, but you’re my father.”
He smiled at her, pleased. He hadn’t expected to feel like this about Lady Taisiya’s egglings until he had his own egg to incubate. Maybe it was the battle, but he felt very strongly about this little girl. “Well, then, daughter Pherishhe, my duty is to you, too, isn’t it?”
“To protect. To, um,” she fished for the words. “Guide and guard, that’s what Daddy Onter says.”
“Exactly. So I will protect and guard your secret, and you will guard mine, and together we will work out how to deal with that secret. All right?”
Pherishhe looked up at him with wide eyes and a tremulous smile. “You really will?”
“Guide and guard, my daughter, guide and guard.”
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