Vision in Silver Page 83

Your friend,

Meg

Simon,

Can the cs see visions without cutting? The scarred girl drew a picture of a Wolf song, so we wondered. Ask your Meg what safe toys we can give the girl. We bought her drawing paper and many colored pencils. She hasn’t cut since she’s been here.

—Jackson

Jackson,

Meg says maybe about the visions. The cs weren’t given a chance to try anything besides cutting. Your girl may be finding a new path. Books are good toys. Give the girl photos of the settlement and surrounding land. That will help when she is ready to go outside.

—Simon

N,

Ship blown off course during storm. Search found nothing. Ship, merchandise, and all hands declared lost.

—Pater

Douglas,

Half of the aunties’ gifts arrived broken beyond repair. Am taking the next ship to Thaisia to discuss with you in person.

—Shady

CHAPTER 40

Windsday, Maius 16

On Windsday afternoon, Steve Ferryman and Roger Czerneda pulled up in front of one of the semidetached houses in the River Road Community. As he got out of the car and waited for Roger, Steve spotted the six columns of smoke gathered near one of the houses farthest from the entrance to the community.

He raised a hand in greeting. The Sanguinati’s only response was to shift to human form—four males and two females.

Steve didn’t recognize any of them, wasn’t sure how much contact they’d had with humans. Enough that, from a distance anyway, they looked like human teenagers, but looking human and being able to act human were very different things. While the Sanguinati in Lakeside had made it clear that residents from Ferryman’s Landing were not to be harmed, it was obvious to him that six against two were not good odds—especially if the vampires were hungry and willing to overlook their promise to behave.

He heard cawing and felt the tension in his shoulders ease a little. Crowgard. He and Roger weren’t alone with the Sanguinati. Then he considered the warning tightness between his shoulder blades and wished they were alone with the vampires and Crows.

As Steve lowered his hand, one of the Sanguinati males raised a hand, imitating the greeting.

With that much acknowledgment, Steve turned to Roger and said, “What do you think?”

Roger studied the house. “Do I think I could live in one of these houses? Do I think it’s a good idea to have a community that includes Intuits running small farms and businesses, and terra indigene doing the gods only knows what as their contribution? Or do I think Simon Wolfgard is a little bit crazy for proposing this in the first place?”

“He’s not crazy,” Steve replied. “He’s implementing a lot of new ideas in a very short amount of time, and I think he knows he’s moving a bit too fast. But I think he’s pushing to get this community and the changes in the Lakeside Courtyard started because he’s worried. There’s—what?—a couple hundred terra indigene in the Lakeside Courtyard surrounded by two hundred thousand humans. If things swing out of control in the city, I’d want some kind of escape route for my people, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, I would,” Roger said quietly. “And I know firsthand what can happen when things swing out of control.”

Steve swore. “Sorry. I didn’t think about Jerzy.”

“That was a case of a human-controlled hamlet surrounded by miles of wild country controlled by the Others, and the humans started the conflict. Didn’t make the result any easier to accept.” Roger studied Steve. “You got a feeling about all of this?”

Oh, yeah, he had a feeling. The skin between his shoulder blades had been twitching and twinging since they pulled in here.

“About the community? Yes. But right now, I have a feeling we’re being watched,” Steve said quietly.

Roger nodded. “By more than vampires and Crows. Yeah. I feel like I have a target painted on my back.”

Steve looked around and saw nothing unusual. Saw nothing, actually. The Sanguinati had disappeared—and the Crows were silent.

“When I was a boy, Douglas Burke came to visit for a couple of weeks,” Roger said. “Old friend of my father’s.”

“I figured that, since he paved the way for us to hire you.”

Roger kept his eyes on the houses in front of them. “You know how men will tell stories about their lives when everyone else is off doing something, and it’s just them and memories? They know when a kid sneaks back to listen, but they pretend they don’t, and they tell the kind of stories mothers wouldn’t want a child to hear.”

Steve smiled. “The Intuits have a winter tradition called an ‘I Remember’ night when grandfathers and grandmothers talk about how things were when they were young. Same kind of thing. Knowledge passed along from memories. Children aren’t invited, but nobody banishes you if you slip into the room and stay quiet.”

“Uncle Doug talked a bit about his time as a young police officer, serving in human settlements surrounded by the wild country. I remember him saying that there is a buffer of terra indigene land that separates human places from the wild country, and how very few humans have ever seen the true wild country and survived.”

“Ming told me once that there is no wild country on Great Island. Most of the island is untouched land that belongs to the Others, but all the terra indigene are aware of us, and even the ones who don’t interact with us directly participate in hunting or harvesting that benefits both sides.”

“Intermediaries, like the Others who live in the Courtyards.” Roger paused. “I’ve never forgotten something Uncle Doug said during that visit. He said humans only thought of the wild country in terms of uncultivated land and distance from human dwellings. But when the Others talk about the wild country, they’re talking about who lives on the land as well as the land itself. He said people think the buffer between human land and wild country is always measured in miles, but sometimes the buffer between one and the other can be measured in yards, and it’s when that truth is ignored that people die and human places disappear.”

Steve nodded. “That fits with what I’ve observed about the Others. I think there are tiers of earth natives. The first tier is the one that deals with us. When our ancestors came to this continent, those earth natives watched us and saw skills they wanted to acquire. Maybe they already used simple tools and saw ours as an improvement of what they had. Sure, humans were invaders who were both rival predators and a new source of food, but we lived in packs and were understood to some degree. And some of the terra indigene were curious enough or committed enough to their own kind to study us, to become . . . contaminated . . . with our shape and some of the behaviors that make us human.

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