Vision in Silver Page 8

“The terra indigene are willing to extend the village’s land to build a new den for these girls,” Ming said. “But first we need to know what to build.”

Quite a concession, Simon thought. But it brought something else to mind. “That abandoned industrial complex and cluster of houses just off River Road. I know the land lease wasn’t renewed because the businesses put too much badness in the land and water, but I wondered if there are any humans still living in those houses and which group of terra indigene controls the land now.”

“The girls would be vulnerable there,” Steve said immediately. “Access to the island is controlled; that’s why they’re here.”

“Not for the girls,” Simon agreed. “But I don’t want any humans who manage to escape from Talulah Falls denning in those houses. I don’t want a potential pack of enemies staking a claim on land between Lakeside and Great Island.”

Steve looked at Ming before he said, “There were people still living in a couple of the houses a few months ago, but this past winter convinced them that they didn’t want to be living out there alone when the weather closes in.”

“The Hawkgard reported that the last humans packed up and left as soon as the road was passable,” Ming said. “I have not heard of any terra indigene reclaiming that land as wild country. Do you want to claim it?”

“Not on our own,” Simon replied.

“In that case, we would be willing to share responsibility for that land with the Lakeside Courtyard.” Ming looked at Steve, who nodded.

“You have people who can check the buildings?” Simon asked Steve.

“Sure,” Steve replied. “We have plumbers, carpenters, and all the rest. I’ll put a team together to inspect each building and make a list of what each would need to be habitable again. And we’ll check out the availability of water and electricity in the buildings.” He hesitated. “I take it you’re thinking of this as an invitation-only community?”

Simon nodded. He wasn’t sure who should live in that community, but he was certain the land and buildings needed to remain under the Others’ control.

Then he stood, feeling crowded in body and mind. “Enough.”

Steve stood too, then tapped the box from Eamer’s Bakery. “Take those with you for your coffee shop.” He walked out of the cabin with Ming.

Outside, the sawhorses were moved and passengers boarded for the trip to the mainland side of the village. But no one entered the cabin.

Henry opened the bakery box, made a sound of approval, and took a fruit-filled pastry. “Good,” he said after swallowing the first bite. “So. Are you wishing you’d gone to the Addirondak Mountains with Nathan?”

“No. But I do want to check with Vlad. If everything is still quiet in the Courtyard, I want to take a look at those houses since they’re on our way home.”

Right now he really wanted to shift out of this skin and be Wolf instead of having to think about human problems, but he didn’t regret passing up the opportunity to spend time away from the Courtyard. He didn’t regret staying in order to be with Meg. His human friend.

He just wished he knew why Meg, the Pathfinder, had decided to make a cut while he was away.

CHAPTER 3

Thaisday, Maius 10

Simon and Henry found a handful of young Sanguinati squatting in one of the abandoned houses in what Simon decided to call the River Road Community. They had come to Talulah Falls from terra indigene settlements around the Great Lakes, drawn by stories of a glut of easy human prey. But the terra indigene sent to deal with those surviving humans weren’t interested in teaching youngsters how to live in a human town, and the Sanguinati had been scared off by the Falls’ primary enforcer, with his braids and clattering bones.

After getting the youngsters’ promise not to hunt in Ferryman’s Landing, and promising in turn to tell Erebus about their current situation, Simon and Henry left, satisfied that they had a minimal guard on their new land acquisition.

As they turned into the Lakeside Courtyard’s Main Street entrance and drove up the access way, they heard Skippy Wolfgard’s mournful arroooo.

Putting the minivan in park, Simon studied the juvenile Wolf sitting at the back door of the Human Liaison’s Office.

“Arroooo! Arroooo! Arooeeooeeoo!” <Meg won’t let me in!>

Glancing at the clock on the dashboard, Simon huffed out a breath and rolled down his window. “Skippy. Skippy!”

“Arroooo!” <Meg won’t let me in!>

Skippy had a brain that didn’t always work right and often skipped over bits of information. In the wild country, that typically ended with the youngster making a fatal mistake. It was inconvenient in a Courtyard, but any youngster who survived to maturity usually grew out of the skippiness.

Skippy had been sent to Lakeside a few weeks ago. Most days he spent at least some time in the office with Meg, with enough Wolves working in the nearby buildings to prevent him from doing something too stupid—not to mention Nathan’s usually being present as the official watch Wolf.

But understanding that the office wasn’t always open was a bit of information Skippy’s brain had trouble holding on to. Since Meg was probably still on her midday break, the youngster would howl himself hoarse and never realize she wasn’t letting him in because she wasn’t there.

Or else she was there and preferred having some barrier between her ears and that yodeling arroo—a sound Simon sincerely hoped Skippy would outgrow.

<Simon!>

Simon looked in the side mirror and saw Elliot Wolfgard, the Courtyard’s consul and Simon’s sire, standing outside the consulate. <Do something about that idiot Wolf. I’m on a call with Mayor Rogers and can barely hear the man.>

Seeing Vlad step out of the back entrance of Howling Good Reads, Simon got out of the minivan and told Elliot, <I’ll deal with it.>

<Why won’t Meg let him in?> Vlad asked as he strode toward the Liaison’s Office, using the terra indigene form of communication instead of trying to shout over the howling.

<It’s not time for her to open for the afternoon hours,> Henry said, joining Simon and Vlad.

Skippy, still howling at the closed door, didn’t notice them.

<But she did come back to the office,> Vlad said, sounding grim. <I was coming over to check on her because Crystal Crowgard just called me to ask if Meg was still upset.>

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