Vision in Silver Page 69

“And protecting a garden is good training for the juvenile Wolves,” Simon added.

Forks paused. Eve Denby stopped chewing and eyed the dishes that Tess had contributed to the meal, no doubt wondering about the ingredients.

“There’s nothing here that you wouldn’t find in a human store,” Tess said, amused.

“Your pups have stopped eating,” Jester said. The Coyote pointed at the three children, who were fading after an active day. “I could take them to the social room to watch a movie.”

“Go ahead,” Simon said.

“I’ll give him a hand,” Theral said.

The rest of the women refilled their glasses and went outside. After a moment, Jenni Crowgard joined them, leaving Tess as the only female still at the table.

“We were wondering why having a share in the garden is so important to all of you,” Vlad said with a casualness that made Monty wary.

“You did offer,” Monty replied.

Vlad nodded. “We did. Why did you accept?”

Tension filled the room.

“Speaking for myself and Ruthie, being able to grow some vegetables means a smaller bill at the grocery store, and lots of foods are going to be more expensive, including fruits,” Kowalski said. “The price of anything made with flour has also risen in the past couple of weeks.”

“We have fruit as well as the vegetable gardens,” Simon said. “We have strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes. There are some apple trees in the Courtyard, as well as pears and peaches.”

“Walnut trees too.” Henry smiled. “While a particular form might have acquired a taste for certain foods, the terra indigene can, and will, eat much of what Namid provides. So our Courtyards have some of everything that grows in this part of Thaisia.”

“Why is fruit going to be expensive?” Vlad asked.

After a look around the table, it was Pete Denby who answered. “Shortages. Several of the regional governments are predicting food shortages this year, and prices are already going up. The loss of the farms in Jerzy—”

“The farms weren’t lost,” Simon snapped. “The farmers might be working for the terra indigene now that the land was reclaimed, but the work is the same. They keep what they need to feed their own and provide the food for the Intuits who moved into the hamlet to run the businesses that those farmers also need. The rest of their crops are sold to the markets in human cities, same as last year.”

“Crops were lost in the Midwest,” Pete said. “At least, that’s what the news reports are saying.”

“The Elementals weren’t interested in farmland. The enemy wasn’t hiding in the fields. They struck what they intended to strike.”

Another look exchanged around the table.

Pete leaned forward. “They’re saying we’ve lost a lot of our surplus crops because of damaged silos. We’ve lost feed for animals, and some livestock has died because of it. There’s talk of shortages of flour and grains for cereals.”

“The ration book had coupons that allowed a family to buy a dozen eggs per month at a fixed price,” Kowalski said. “When my mom went to buy eggs the other day, the same coupon is now for half a dozen eggs for the same price.”

“I heard bakeries will get dibs on ingredients like flour and sugar in order to stay in business, and everyone else will only be able to buy a pound bag of each per month, if it’s available,” Debany said. “That means families won’t be able to bake their own bread or make biscuits.”

“A bakery down the street from us told Theral each household needs to register with certain businesses to guarantee the availability of some items. Anyone registered with that bakery will be guaranteed one loaf of bread each week,” MacDonald said.

Debany nodded. “Doesn’t mean everyone who registers will be able to afford to buy a loaf a week in six months’ time.”

Monty listened, becoming more and more uneasy. Had all of this escalated in the past couple of days while he was focused on Lizzy’s arrival and Elayne’s death?

Simon seemed to be wondering the same thing. “That doesn’t answer the question. Last year, there was enough food. Why isn’t there enough this year? The terra indigene haven’t reclaimed that much land, and what needs to be grown is still being grown.”

Pete Denby shook his head thoughtfully. “I haven’t heard of any infestations that would account for lost crops.”

“There has been one,” Vlad said. “The Humans First and Last movement.”

Simon nodded. “We hadn’t caught any scent of them last year. This year, they’re howling everywhere about everything.”

“Maybe we should pay more attention to what they’re saying,” Tess suggested as her hair turned green and began to curl.

“Maybe we should,” Simon agreed.

Monty suddenly had the feeling his team really wanted an excuse to leave. He looked hard at Kowalski. “What aren’t you saying?” It wasn’t a good question to ask, not with the Courtyard’s leaders present, but information was also a crop to be tended.

Kowalski winced. “I’ve been hearing from other officers that some of the butcher shops and bakeries will display an HFL decal. Customers who want limited items will not only have to register at a particular shop; they’ll have to show their HFL membership card.”

“And if they don’t have a membership card?”

“I don’t think nonmembers will be welcome. Or safe.”

Something to tell the captain in the morning, assuming Burke didn’t know about it already.

Simon, Vlad, Henry, and Tess looked eerily calm.

Then Simon shifted in his chair. “Enough. It’s time to rest.”

“I’ll second that,” Pete Denby said.

They agreed to let Tess store the remaining food and bring it to A Little Bite in the morning, since most of the humans would be working around the Courtyard anyway. Kowalski, Debany, and MacDonald headed out together, and their voices mingled with those of the women who were still sitting outside.

After bidding the Others good night, Monty and Pete walked over to the social room to fetch their children.

“They say the eye of the storm is the safest place to be,” Monty said.

“Is that where we are?” Pete asked. “The eye of the storm?”

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