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Joham did not actually leave his firstborn in the Outback alone as an infant, but it was a near thing.

Throughout the winter of 1689 (not by the local calendar, but he wasn't sure if the locals had one), he'd been seeing several women, one from each of a cluster of nearby human communities. "Nearby" by his standards: he traveled between them during the day, visited his lovers at night. They didn't know about each other, as it was easier to coax them into bed when he played the part of a supernatural being uncharacteristically charmed by their beauty with eyes for no other.

He didn't always bother with the coaxing. But he was beginning to suspect that it would make his successful conceptions less likely to drown themselves or slit their throats when they became aware that they carried his children, or even before. The death toll from the pregnancies which didn't suicide (or get themselves killed by outraged fellow humans) were already in the dozens, but he persisted: surely if it was possible for them to conceive, it should be possible for them to bear. The children at two weeks along - as far as he'd seen any get - were not strong enough to live apart from their mothers, however promptly Joham arrived on the scene to tear them out of the dead womb.

But when he did take the still bodies out of their mothers, they were perfect little creatures save for being dead - vampire-like skin, but they would have breathed if they'd lived, their hearts would have beaten, who knew what else they might do? Who knew what marvels they'd have grown into?

Joham meant to find out, so: he left Pangari when dawn approached, promising to return to her in a few days. He spent the light of day traveling from where she lived to where Tathra lived, and came to her at dusk.

Except Tathra was, unaccountably, dead, with her belly ripped wide open, and beside her on the ground were several of her family, jagged scoops of their necks missing and surprisingly little blood pooling below the wounds.

Joham smelled the air, but there was no trace of any vampire having been in the place but himself. There were only the smells of blood (he controlled himself; he'd fed on his journey and there wasn't much left in these vessels anyway... but why? It hadn't all soaked into the ground...) and standard human odors of food and refuse and the like, and a sweet-spicy smell that was neither familiar nor important.

So a vampire couldn't have killed them. Humans killed each other sometimes, but not like this, not typically. And a wild animal seemed... unlikely.

He almost didn't examine Tathra's midsection more carefully. He would certainly have noticed if she had become pregnant, of course, would have noticed weeks ago.

Except perhaps he wouldn't, because the hollow of the tear was lined with the damply glistening shell he'd become familiar with. How in the world...?

Joham ignored a sharp pain in his ankle and studied the scene. The bodies appeared to have been dead for different amounts of time. Tathra first, this fellow (a brother? He hadn't bothered to ask about her family) after her, then the woman (her aunt, he thought); then the girl perhaps ten years old (maybe Tathra's niece?) was still warm. Something had killed that girl not an hour before his arrival. He was entirely baffled.

The pain in his ankle subsided. He looked at the ring of punctures while they healed, then put his foot back down; it didn't matter where they'd come from and they were recovering normally.

"-aaaa," said a baby's voice from the ground beside the dead child.

Joham stared at her: a healthy brown baby girl with gloss to her skin and blood on her lips. How had he not seen her? She'd been there the entire time, he realized, watching him, biting his leg, but... Still, she was obviously his. He broke into a broad grin. She copied him, smiling a toothy, red smile, and flung her hands up, crowing "Vwee!"

"Oh, my, indeed vwee," he purred, bending to scoop her up. "Now how did I miss you, you charming little miracle?"

"Ababababa," she said, fastening her warm little arms around his neck and clinging there. She didn't seem to have any trouble supporting her own weight, although he propped her up anyway.

"You have been hungry, haven't you," he marveled, surveying the destruction she'd wrought. "I'm just not sure how you escaped my noti..."

He dropped his arms to his sides, blinking. He wasn't usually given to talking to himself, and he wasn't grief-stricken over Tathra to the point where he'd sentimentally address her corpse. At any rate, whatever had killed her and her relatives, it wouldn't look good to the Volturi if he just fled the scene and it somehow led the local population to believe in blood-drinking monsters. It wasn't Joham's fault, or any vampire's that he could smell (some witch who concealed his or her tracks, maybe...?) but it could be Joham's downfall if the Italians caught wind.

He torched the building, and fled into the night.

He visited his other women in their customary order: one fell pregnant and died, one fell pregnant and was murdered by her father, one he killed accidentally while trying to get her pregnant (these accidents were becoming less frequent, but happened occasionally), and one he gave up as probably barren and had for supper.

Only after all of these events had passed, and he'd spent a couple of days in the wilderness taking a break from his lifework, did he notice the baby clinging to his back.

She'd evidently been continuing to feed herself - come to think of it, that might explain what he'd written off as a mistake on his part, although he hadn't thought much of the chunks torn out of Pangari's throat at the time - and was some inches longer than she had been, but she was the same child. "My word," he said to her, choosing the language Tathra had used. "What a peculiar magic you've got." It had to be magic, that was obvious. And a particularly insidious sort: he could now remember her attaching herself to him and hanging from his neck as he'd traveled, but at the time she'd seemed inconsequential. The humans had apparently been affected the same way. It would have been easy to lose her. But she'd apparently been motivated to stay with him, and successful at it to boot. "Aren't you smart. Aren't you! Now, don't you fade away again, I need to name you..."

It was a romantic notion, perhaps his only one, but he liked the idea of letting the deceased mothers of the large number of children he hoped to sire name them. In advance via idle conversation, of course, but it was easy enough to get his conquests to produce preferred names for a boy and a girl, and Tathra had been no different.

"You're Allirea," he said, touching his daughter's nose.

"Allirea," she repeated clearly.

Father did not know that hybrids slept until he saw Noemi doing it.

Allirea had never known it was remarkable - she only tucked her hands under her elbows to lock her arms in place around his neck and let him carry her around, and then she woke up, and since she often clung to him and said nothing even awake, he never noticed the difference in retrospect. She'd assumed that he slept sometimes. Less than her, clearly, but she'd expected that he probably found a quiet place to lie down (on his front, she supposed, since she'd never been squashed) and nap every day.

Then Noemi fell asleep after a long day of chewing her way out of her mother and drinking three humans down for her first meal, and Father stared at her like she was doing something remarkable.

Allirea watched the baby, touched her downy pale hair and her pearly pale cheek. Noemi looked more like Father than Allirea did. And she slept and this was interesting to Father.

Allirea unfaded and looked at him quizzically. She didn't need to call his attention to her beyond that; he knew after fourteen years (however sporadic their interactions) that when she unfaded it meant she wanted to talk.

"Allirea, my precious, do you sleep too?" he inquired.

"Yes," she said. "Everyone sleeps."

"Vampires don't," he told her.

"You have said you do," she protested. She began listing occasions when he'd referred to waking up, or going to bed, or catching up on sleep, while she'd been eavesdropping.

"I was lying," he said gently. "Not to you, if you had ever asked of course you would have gotten the truth, but I have to lie to humans, you know that. You don't believe that I'm thirty-three years old, do you?"

"No," admitted Allirea. "But you told me you were not."

He kissed her scalp. She'd taken to shearing off all her hair when there were implements available; she didn't like to fuss with it. "I tell you now, vampires, including me, do not sleep. But it is a blessing indeed that you can. Do you dream?" he asked, sounding wistful.

Allirea nodded. "I dream."

She dreamed of being awake, mostly, only nothing she made was still there in the morning and nothing she'd learned was still true. Sometimes she had terrible dreams, where someone had seen Father do something he shouldn't have been able to do, and she couldn't make the fading cover him, and everyone looked at him and shouted and brought fire to kill him. Sometimes she dreamed about wandering around in the place she was from, by herself, with no Father at all because he hadn't come back for her or she'd let go while he ran. Sometimes she dreamed that they ate all the humans in the world and he starved and she had to eat bread that tasted sour and dry and sticky. She wasn't sure it was such a good thing to dream. But if Father wished to dream, she was lucky to do so. Allirea filed away this blessing with the others he'd told her she - and her new sister, now - had.

She had nothing more to say, so she relaxed and Father's eyes unfocused and slid away from her, and he looked at Noemi, and Allirea looked at her too.

Noemi almost didn't get to meet Nahuel.

At the time Nahuel was born in 1853, Noemi was busily playing house with her vampire paramour - not "mate", but wasn't Father proof that mating wasn't strictly necessary? - in Warszawa. Noemi's childhood had been full of loving attention from said father and, sometimes, her sister, but she'd always found the running around the world between batches of potential-mothers-of-more-siblings tiring. Allirea could hitch a ride whenever she liked and never be told to get off their father's back, but Noemi'd had to run to keep up since she turned four.

So she'd broken a little rule - just one of Father's, which would get her scolded, not one of the Volturi's that could get her killed - and she'd let on to a vampire what she was. Jarek held the territory around Warszawa by himself, without the aid of a coven, which she found impressive. He was quite willing to let a fetching, exotic immortal like Noemi charm him into an explicitly temporary affair. Temporary because sooner or later, even if they never really tired of each other, Jarek or Noemi or both would find a mate. They agreed in advance that this was to be accepted without rancor on both sides when the time came. He was charmingly reasonable about it, Noemi thought.

Father had sighed and paced and shaken his head at Noemi, but finally he'd agreed to leave her behind in Poland. "I will come here to look for you the next time I am near," he said to her. "If I do not find you here - if you have moved, perhaps - then we will work out something else to find one another." And they had decided on a series of landmarks to check, any one of which was unlikely to disappear soon, and signs that could be left near them to indicate updated locations. Father was gone as soon as his last Polish experiment choked on her own blood and died, a week and a half along.

Noemi found that stationary life agreed with her very well. She slept during the day, in Jarek's cellar hideout, and when it was too sunny for him to venture out he would stay in and hold her. At night she woke, and they hunted together, and played absurd games of hide-and-seek that sprawled across the entire city, and Jarek repeatedly lauded his good fortune at having found a warm and durable bedmate without having to wait for the whims of whatever controlled mating.

This last eventually resulted in Noemi becoming pregnant, which was alarming to the both of them.

"I hope I haven't killed you," Jarek said. "That is not what I was trying to do."

Noemi laughed, because he was funny, even when the situation could be deadly serious. "I feel healthy enough," she said, running a hand over her distended belly. "I'm stronger than a human. Maybe I can survive it."

Noemi stayed in the cellar, and Jarek brought her food enough to satisfy her increased cravings, and she continued to feel healthy (if a bit bloated). The baby (Noemi named it in advance like her mother had done for her, just in case: Kanimir if a boy, Jaromira if a girl) grew fast. Faster than Noemi had seen Father's other attempts at children do. But as long as she kept eating - especially first thing every evening when she woke up - she felt... fine. The baby didn't break her bones or rupture her organs or drain the life out of her.

Kanimir was born three weeks and two days after he was conceived. Noemi had warned Jarek about her kind's propensity for chewing, and when she felt the first stab of agony he tore her open as neatly as he could with his teeth. When Kanimir was safely out and wriggling happily on the floor beside his mother, Jarek held the edges of the wound together, Noemi panted and scrunched her eyes shut, and a jagged scab formed and started to scar.

Once Noemi could sit without opening herself up again, Jarek went out for more prey: for her, to recover, and for the baby. Kanimir was small and symmetrical and looked like he was made of porcelain. He had his mother's blonde hair, and black eyes that didn't change color when he fed.

Noemi's scar didn't go away, although it did get thinner and turn white. It was colder than the rest of her, probably the result of the venom Jarek had bitten in. She did return to her original, svelte shape over several days. Kanimir's shell was apparently absorbed back into her body without incident.

The little family was very paranoid about letting Kanimir be seen for his first few years of life, when someone might have mistaken him for a full vampire - and an immortal child, based on his size. But he grew even faster than Noemi had. He was three when he finally looked fourteen: the cutoff age, beyond which it was permissible to turn. Anyone making the obvious mistake would not make it to the point of having the child executed for a capital crime.

It wouldn't be a hard mistake to make. Kanimir didn't have a heartbeat. He wasn't cold, like a vampire, but he did tend to hover around room temperature. He ate less often but more avidly than Noemi did, and had almost his father's grace and speed, albeit not strength. He slept - occasional, optional catnaps he could have whenever he chose in opposition to Noemi's rigid nocturnal schedule, the naps totaling no more than an hour a day.

Jarek was full to bursting with pride.

He wanted another.

Noemi... did not. She was pleased with Kanimir. He was a delightful child, always ready with a kiss for his mama and a new discovery about the world to cheer about. But even knowing that, for her, motherhood was survivable, she didn't want to repeat the experience.

Her relationship with Jarek didn't long survive the moratorium on lovemaking.

He didn't push the issue. He could have, but either lingering affection for Noemi, or fear of Joham, or some combination, prevented it. They went on living together amicably, and raised their child cooperatively, but ceased to be lovers.

Kanimir stopped growing when he was five and could pass for eighteen. In indirect sunshine, he glowed like Noemi; under high noon on a cloudless day there was a twinkly sheen to him like crushed white mica. He wore his hair long and went barefoot and tasted human food just once.

"Grandfather will want to know if you can or not," she coaxed, that having been the reason she'd had a pastry when she was six: to see if she could. "He will be back to check on me any year now; wouldn't you like to already know the answer when he asks?"

"If I can't won't it make me sick?" Kanimir asked, wary of the slice of bread she was holding. She'd eaten half of it to convince him of its edible nature, although she wouldn't want to make a diet of the stuff.

"It wouldn't even make your father sick," she said. "He'd only have to cough it up, he wouldn't be hurt. Go on."

Kanimir ate the bread, and didn't feel compelled to choke it up later, but never wanted to consume anything other than blood again. Noemi didn't push it; she'd leave that to Father when he returned.

Father returned to Warszawa when Kanimir was eleven. He found Noemi and Jarek and their son right where he expected to, and was thrilled to pieces with his grandson. "I knew," he kept repeating, after coming to understand that Noemi had given birth and looking at her scar, "I knew my children would be superior creatures. How marvelous. How absolutely marvelous." For several days he monopolized Kanimir, inquiring after every facet of his capabilities and development.

Noemi was pretty sure Jarek and Father had talked about her reluctance to have a second child while she was asleep, because Father never asked.

"I'm going back to South America," Father announced after he'd been in Warszawa for two weeks. He looked at Noemi, and at Kanimir.

"Why South America?" Noemi asked.

"I was there seven years ago," Father said. "I lost track of one of my experiments..."

"Lost track?" Noemi exclaimed. "Father!"

"I had others to look after, and by the time Pire's turn came up again she was gone. I suspected that she'd been killed by her tribesmen, you know how common that is..." Noemi nodded. "But it occurred to me recently that her sister, to whom she'd been very close, was also missing when I returned. There's something puzzling about that. I'm going back to make a more thorough search, in case there's anything left to be found."

The unspoken question was, Will you join me?

"I will come with you," Noemi said. She glanced at her son. He looked grown. He spoke and acted like a man. And of course she knew what it was to be adult at a young age. But she hoped he would come with her anyway.

Jarek was looking at their son, too, hoping to keep him in Poland.

"I will go, and then I will come back," Kanimir decided finally, and both of his parents had to be satisfied with that.

Noemi had crossed oceans before. The usual method was for Father to tow a boat with her on it, and a few humans tied up to eat on the way in case they didn't encounter any ships to hunt on. A larger raft was called for with Kanimir in tow, but otherwise the procedure was the same. They took the trip at a leisurely pace to let the untraveled quarter-human see the sights on the way, and stopped in France for Father to begin and kill off a round of experiments, and then they went across the Atlantic and landed on the wrong coast of South America.

They went across, slowing down and meandering north-south more as they got closer to the west edge.

One evening, Noemi woke up to find Allirea unfaded, a vampire woman in their camp separated from her limbs and guarded by Kanimir, and a half-vampire man shouting at Father.

"She did not attack first!" roared the strange man. "Allirea picked us up against our wills and took us here -"

"Allirea could hardly have stopped your aunt if she had struggled, Nahuel," Father pointed out. Noemi did not think this was a fair characterization, but kept silent.

"Let her go!" exclaimed the new hybrid, who Noemi tentatively identified as her half-brother. He lunged towards the flailing, detached parts of his aunt, but Kanimir batted him aside easily and Nahuel sprang back, growling.

"Do calm down. I am not planning to kill her," said Father. "Huilen was the first to make a violent move. Allirea was defending me; before that no one had been injured. I only want to talk to you, my son."

"I am no son of yours," snapped Nahuel.

"You are," said Father levelly. "If only Huilen hadn't made off with you I would have been there to see you born and would have raised you as my own; I have already apologized for the timing -"

"You killed my mother!"

"And gave you life," Father said. "A human, traded for a miraculous creature of incredible rarity and -"

Nahuel interrupted with an incoherent roar, and Father appeared to be getting less patient. "Don't you eat?" Noemi asked her brother quizzically.

"Of course I - that's not the point," Nahuel said. "I don't want to go with you. Let me put my aunt back together, and leave us alone."

"Please reconsider," coaxed Father. "You are one of only three like you! You belong with your sisters."

"No," snarled Nahuel. "I'm staying here with Huilen. She's my family."

"Won't you at least tell us how to find you, so we can visit?" Noemi put in. "Kanimir is going to live with his father in Poland when we return to Europe, but I will know how to find my son. I would like to know how to find my brother."

A tense conversation later, they were agreed on where Father, Allirea, Noemi, or Kanimir could leave a note and suggest a meeting time and place for Nahuel. He agreed to check it "periodically". Noemi suspected that he didn't intend for that to amount to anything frequent, but there was a glimmer of something in his eyes when he looked at how she touched Kanimir's hair, or how proud Father looked when he placed his hands on Allirea's shoulders. She thought he'd probably look in more often than he meant to when he promised.

The family left Nahuel to reconstruct his aunt, and traversed the sea again (after a three-week stop in Paraguay for tourism - and more experiments, all failures). Kanimir parted ways from his mother and grandfather when they landed in Liberia: Father and Noemi continued inland while Kanimir traveled up the African coast to make his way back to Warszawa.

It was on this occasion that Noemi learned she could cry.

Chapter Text

The first time Allirea was away from her father for more than a day was in 1910. She'd always been afraid of losing him. He'd tear apart the Earth to find her again, of course - if she could stay unfaded long enough to let him remember that she was lost. She couldn't. Sleep, if nothing else, would end the constant expenditure of willpower that it took to remain noticeable.

But in 1910, she decided that it was safe to leave him. If she couldn't find him again where she expected him to be right away, she could go to Warszawa by herself and wait until he visited her nephew. Or to Nahuel's home in Chile, which Father also visited sometimes.

So, that winter, she unfaded and waited for Father's acknowledgement.

"Yes, my dear?" Father said, looking up from the game of chess he was playing with Noemi. Noemi cocked her head, also curious.

"I want to go somewhere alone," she said. "Tell me where you will be every month for the next several years so I can meet you there when I am done. If I want to take longer than that I will go to Poland and stay with Kanimir so you can find me."

Father didn't usually keep a schedule in advance, but he worked one out anyway, on the spot, and she memorized the plan, and he swore - to Noemi, so he could remember - that he would stick to that itinerary. And then Allirea relaxed, and the chess game resumed, and she hugged them both unawares and steeled herself to march out of the hotel room they were keeping.

She kept track of where she went, so she wouldn't become lost and unable to find any of the planned meetup points, but she didn't have a specific destination in mind. Eventually she wound up on a boat to Puerto Rico.

She didn't have anything planned for what to do with herself there. So she did what she always did: watched, without being watched herself.

People-watching without Father around was a different experience. He always told her and Noemi that humans were animals, food, experimental subjects, not the nigh-deific heralds of a new world order that the hybrids were. Allirea did eat in Puerto Rico, of course. But she also noticed other things, without Father there to act as a lens.

She noticed a man.

Orlán was funny, and Allirea, who almost never laughed, followed him around to seek that insidious humor. Inside of a week of first seeing him, she watched no one else. She slept next to him, though he didn't know it. When he cooked at his chef's job she tasted what he made, out of sentiment, even though it was all inferior to warm, sweet blood. And he made jokes, for his friends and his little brother and his nieces, and Allirea laughed.

She decided that she wanted Orlán to make jokes for her, so she let him notice her. Only when no one else was around, snippets of ten and fifteen minutes during most days. He was convinced he was imagining her, or daydreaming her, since he couldn't introduce her to anyone and never seemed to recall her existence for long - but that didn't stop him from talking to her. It didn't stop him from making jokes. And she laughed, and eventually she decided to kiss him, and she decided that Noemi had not been silly to go off and live with a man after all.

They enticed each other to bed over several weeks (she didn't mention that she'd been sharing his for a while already). Orlán was engaged, but Allirea was an unusually solid fantasy, so he thought that was all right. She didn't challenge the interpretation.

She considered eating his fiancée, but eventually decided against it. He would probably make very few jokes if he were in mourning.

Orlán was bemused, but accepting, when his daydream turned up pregnant and her belly swelled impossibly quickly.

He was less accepting when their son, who was not naturally prone to being intermittently forgotten, was born (with less violence than Allirea's nephew, via the standard procedure) ten weeks later. He did not accept that at all, and, confronted with Allirea's reality, wanted nothing else to do with her.

Allirea could still watch Orlán if she wanted. He could hardly stop her. She could even lift his spirits in spite of his preoccupation with his child out of wedlock, if she folded the baby into her own protection. When their son was forgotten like she was, Orlán would joke as he had before.

She faded into the background, and protected their son the same way as much as she could, until Orlán's wedding. Then she left town. She didn't want to watch him living with her.

But she did name the baby after his father.

Allirea was awkward in attempting to raise little Orlán. Whenever she relaxed for a moment, he thought he was alone, and cried. He slept, but at seemingly random times, and it was almost impossible for him to wake her up in the middle of the night when he opened his eyes and feared the dark or wanted food. When he learned to crawl, climbing and walking followed soon after, and she had to put him in what amounted to a cage before she went to sleep to prevent him from haring off into the darkness.

If she took him into a populated area, she had to fade him or unfade herself. Humans would try to grab her son right out of her arms if she did neither, because there was an unattended child, and they had to find his parents, of course. Especially because he was an unattended, cute child: he had thick black hair that curled when it got long, and though he didn't glow in the sun, he did have a healthy clay-colored complexion, midway between Allirea's nut brown and his father's deep tan. He wasn't the ethereal vision of beauty that a vampire was, or the solidly healthy and even-featured specimen that first-generation hybrids seemed to turn out to be, but he was extraordinary if mistaken for a human.

Little Orlán drank blood quite happily (which didn't affect his brown eyes a bit), but he also enjoyed select human foods that Allirea was, at best, neutral about. She let him have them when he asked. They didn't do him harm.

It became easier to care for him as he learned to talk. He started with Spanish, but once he had a solid command of that at six months old, she taught him her first language to use instead, the Aboriginal tongue her mother had spoken. Orlán speaking Spanish sounded a little too much like his father and Allirea didn't like to hear it.

He was slower and weaker than her even as he grew up, and sometimes he forgot things - not random, background things, like the ones Allirea could forget, but occasionally even important things. He still had a better memory than a human, as far as she could tell.

When Orlán was ten and looked twenty, he stopped growing. He was tall, topping Allirea's five foot two by almost eighteen inches. He moved easily among humans, telling the right lies and hiding the full extent of his abilities. But he wasn't shy about demonstrating them, up to the limits Allirea guessed were safe and carefully instilled into his memory using the techniques that would let her admonishment stick when her existence didn't.

When he was eleven, he went into a town by himself, got a job fishing, and was gone for a week and a half before Allirea figured out where he'd gone. He came back to the house she'd built them in the safety of the middle of nowhere, blinked at her when she reasserted her presence, and apologized for scaring her, but he went back out when she dropped her unfading again.

Allirea thought about it long and hard, but eventually she decided to let him be. Carefully, she left instructions for how to find his cousin in Warszawa, or his uncle in Chile, and where he should leave a note when he decided to move somewhere new, so she'd be able to find him again.

Then she got on a boat to Portugal, and waited in Sintra for Father and Noemi, who arrived on schedule and were pleased to see her again. They wanted to visit Orlán, so they did, although Allirea hung back beyond what she needed to do to introduce everyone.

Allirea left them twice more: once in Uruguay in 1939, and once in South Africa in 1990 not long after Iseul was born. (Allirea was not especially fond of Iseul, at least compared to Noemi, and that time she left at least as much to get away from the excessively perky child as she did to enjoy herself in Cape Town.) Each time she left, she followed a man. An unattached man - she'd learned her lesson. Each time she eventually revealed herself, eventually made love to him, inevitably got pregnant, and bore a daughter.

Ella, the first daughter, was actually quite welcome to her father Camilo, who had the freedom to be eccentric that came with self-made wealth and wasn't much harmed by a daughter of mysterious origins or put out by the inconvenience of hiding her age. In order to placate Camilo's sensibilities, Ella was raised entirely on human food supplemented with occasional pigs' blood. Allirea was able to leave Ella with Camilo - and with a mostly fictional explanation of why the girl would grow so fast and be so extraordinary - and so Ella didn't have the difficult childhood her brother had. She grew up surprisingly human in outlook.

In fact, Camilo was entirely able to manage their daughter, and everything else, without Allirea at all, which went a long way to disenchanting her with him. He was no happier when she was noticeable than when she wasn't. Allirea stayed in Uruguay, despite her lost interest in Camilo, until Ella was grown and in spite of the girl's alien identification with the animals around her. Allirea made sure that her second child had the same resources Orlán did to get ahold of her mother's side of the family. But Allirea herself felt superfluous, and so after her daughter turned ten, she went to Puerto Rico to update Orlán on his sibling status, and then met up with Father and Noemi in La Paz.

Siphiwe, Allirea's last daughter, was not such a pleasant addition to her father's life, but Allirea didn't have to raise her alone as she had with Orlán after being turned out of her lover's house. She brought baby Siphiwe with her to Namibia, where Father and Noemi and Iseul lingered, and convinced Noemi to live with her in South Africa and help until Siphiwe was ready to be on her own. Father wasn't thrilled with the geographical requirement, but in order to stay near his elder daughters he confined himself and Iseul to the southerly half of Africa for the next decade. Noemi and Allirea set up in Port Elizabeth, and Siphiwe grew up thinking of Noemi as as much of a mother as Allirea was - more so, when Allirea was faded.

Allirea's children all met each other once: in 2000, when Siphiwe was grown (and so was Iseul), Allirea declared an unprecedented family gathering, and got Father and Noemi and Nahuel and Kanimir and Iseul and Orlán and Ella and Siphiwe to congregate in Natal, Brazil, a reasonable geographic midpoint.

It was a lukewarm event. Father was excessively self-congratulatory about the quantity and quality of his descendants. Orlán didn't seem to like having sisters, and Ella, who'd had half-siblings on her father's side and hadn't liked them much, wasn't interested in developing new relationships of the same kind. Siphiwe hated travel and desperately wanted to go home, and Nahuel wouldn't stop worrying about having offended Huilen by attending the gathering. Kanimir was annoyed at Allirea (whenever he recalled her presence) for not inviting his father Jarek. Iseul took an immediate shine to her nieces and nephews and seemed oblivious to how annoying they found her.

But everyone was there, and everyone exchanged contact information and got to know each other and memorize their network of relationships, which was what Allirea wanted. That way, she could expect to find anyone in her family through anyone else, if she lost touch somehow.

Allirea faded out, and followed her father and sisters as they left Natal.

Iseul listened carefully to her father's repeated, insistent warnings about the Volturi when she was growing up. "The Volturi do not give second chances," he told her - told all his descendants. "They will kill even you, my miracles, if you are caught in violation of the law. You must avoid notice if you can. If you are noticed you must avoid angering them."

And so when Demetri found her in the street in Bayankhongor, and called her name, and she saw the black cloak... Iseul wanted to run. But she couldn't get away from a vampire, so she was polite to him and did as he asked, and then he called Jane and jumped out the window looking intent on something Iseul couldn't place.

Iseul huddled next to Noemi on the couch, worried about Jane's approach, wishing Father would return home sooner than planned. It would be no good to leave town hoping to avoid meeting the Volturi weapon; Demetri found them once and would have an even easier time finding them again. They would just have to be very polite to her and hope the Volturi didn't want to hurt them.

Jane did want to hurt them (although not damage them). She took exception to Iseul drifting off to sleep at six in the morning before she was done talking to them, and wouldn't even let Noemi try to wake her before resorting to her usual bludgeon. Sleep insistently clawed at Iseul from one direction and Jane's fire from the other. Noemi had learned to stay up past her usual bedtime with practice, but Iseul couldn't do it. When the little witch finally left with her companions at her heels, Iseul couldn't stop trembling, and she felt more tired than she ever had before, but it was almost noon and she couldn't make herself fall asleep at the wrong time.

And Father had been helpless. Strong, confident Father, who ushered in a race of gods, who was - her father - could do nothing about a little hissing teenager with fire in her eyes. He'd been afraid. For himself, for his children.

Iseul didn't like that at all.

After she got a morning's sleep, she felt better, but still unsettled, and the feeling didn't go away after another day, or a week, or a year. Father worried about her - it was unlike her - but he couldn't get at the source of her worry and she knew it.

Someone else could, though.

Someone did. Iseul heard it from Allirea, who she'd seen only once since Demetri had first visited them. Usually the absence hardly made a difference and certainly wasn't noticed, although it did seem to Iseul like she had trouble moving unnoticed through crowds more often than she had before. But when she realized her sister had been gone for five years save two "visits"... and picked up on the clues about what she'd been doing... she felt sick to her stomach.

But Allirea brought news, the most interesting news to have ever been current during Iseul's lifetime: the Volturi were gone. Well, most of them -

Jane was gone.

Iseul couldn't even manage to be upset about the new hunting laws when she heard.

Joham was mildly put out about the new regime, until it became clear that the new Empress had an agenda roughly compatible with his own. Some procedural changes would be required, nothing more. Her Majesty (and her charming daughter the princess) permitted him to outline an advertisement, which was then stacked in the PRPR waiting room to be skimmed at random or clipped to women's turning rejection slips if they ticked the relevant box on their application.

He wasn't the only vampire who was interested in having children, but he was one of a very, very few who had the practice under his belt to safely arrange it the old-fashioned way. That, with the fact that he was demonstrably willing and able to raise his children alone and didn't require ongoing participation from the mother, appealed to a niche - the ones who didn't like the idea of the medical procedure and the ones who didn't really want kids, just a bloodstream full of venom.

Still, most of them backed out after talking to him, although one wavered enough that she got as far as meeting his daughters before changing her mind, and one appeared set to go through with it until a vampire mated to her and got her through the screening process that way. Joham was patient, though. The new arrangement would be unlikely to lose any of his precious children once he got to the point of creating them, and would probably improve his rate overall.

It was eight years into the new system before he finally got his fifth child. The boy's mother declined to name him, or otherwise involve herself, and Joham had never been particularly creative, so he called the baby by his own name and withdrew his advertisement until Joham II was mature.

There was a reasonable number of half-vampires by then, and while the princess lived with the Golden Coven, Nahuel remained in Chile, and the Clearwater boy resided with his wolf siblings, other hybrids born under the new regime had happened to cluster near the capital site in Florida. Joham settled into a residence within the environs of the cluster, and Junior played not only with his sisters but with Marcus's daughters (how odd, that they were not princesses as they would have been if they'd been born only a decade earlier) and the others who lived nearby.

Joham Jr. matured and, unlike his sisters, was not interested in continuing to live with his father, although he didn't go far. Siphiwe eventually moved nearby, and Kanimir's five-eighths human twins when they were grown, and Joham resumed putting advertisements in the PRPR offices.

The volume of requests the office handled had gone up since his youngest's birth, and he got another taker within the year.

That one turned out to be his mate.

His mate, Lucy, had read the relevant pamphlets, and so when she was made aware of this, she was roughly familiar with the position the phenomenon put her in - which position was markedly different from the one she would have been in fifty years previous, and starkly in her favor given that she did want to be a vampire.

Lucy informed him that there was to be none of his characteristic behavior with anyone but her in the future. She informed him that she wanted one child, no more, as she didn't care for the idea of hers gestating in someone else's body and there was still no way for a human to manage two half-vampire pregnancies.

Lucy named their baby girl Athena, and Athena was his last child, but around him, the ranks of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren swelled.

Joham considered it reasonably likely that in a few hundred years, he would be an ancestor of every new child born.

He considered this satisfaction enough for his life's work.