Written in Red Page 99

“Until the deaths at Jerzy,” Henry said quietly. “Until leaders among the terra indigene gathered to talk, and began to see a pattern.”

Simon nodded. “Most of the attacks hardly touched us at all, except for the police sniffing around for some way to blame us. In a few cases, the sickness started in a village of humans that is enclosed by our territory, and no one can say how it reached one village when other villages on that same road were not touched. Sickness should have spread from village to village, leaving a trail, but that hasn’t been true this time.”

Vlad sat back and crossed one leg over the other. “The leaders from the Courtyards that were affected are satisfied that this sickness begins with the humans?”

“Yes. But the human leaders believe just as strongly that we’re the cause.”

“Doesn’t matter what they believe,” Jester growled.

“If the humans are spreading a new sickness to us, there is a way to fix the problem,” Blair said, staring at Simon.

“That’s not the answer,” Henry said, shifting in his chair. “Not yet. First we or the humans must find the root of this sickness. Then we decide what needs to be killed.”

“Agreed,” Simon said. “Especially since there has been no sign of this sickness in the east.” He sighed. “One thing ties each of these attacks to us: some Crows were killed near each of the villages a day or two before the attack took place. I’ll talk to Jenni Crowgard. If Crows begin to die without reason, we need to take that as a warning that the sickness has reached Lakeside.”

He waited a moment. “Now. What’s been happening here?”

He wasn’t sure if it was just timing or if Vlad had sent a signal, but as soon as he asked the question, the door opened and Winter walked into the room, followed by Erebus Sanguinati. After a moment of startled silence, two chairs were added to the circle.

Elliot was sitting close enough to him that Simon could smell his sire’s fear. Bad enough to have Erebus come to this meeting, but one of the Elementals? They rarely concerned themselves with anything but their connection to Namid. And when they did, the results were unpredictable—and usually devastating.

“Meg had a prophecy while you were gone,” Henry said, his abrupt words changing the direction of the discussion before it began.

Elliot gave Simon a startled look. “Prophecy?”

“Meg is a cassandra sangue,” Simon replied.

Winter had no reaction. Erebus simply nodded.

“What do you know about blood prophets?” he asked Erebus.

“Very little. Meg is the first of her kind I have ever seen, so I did not know the cassandra sangue and the humans who have the sweet blood were the same,” Erebus replied.

“What is the sweet blood?” Henry asked, his eyes narrowing in thought.

“They have adult bodies, but they retain the sweetness of a child’s heart,” Erebus said.

Simon thought about the old woman who had cut her face to see his future. A sweetness in her eyes, in her smile, despite her age. Not a feeb, like some of the adolescents had called her. No, there was nothing wrong with her mind. But perhaps that childlike innocence provided a veil against the terrible things the prophets sometimes saw in the visions.

“Not prey,” Henry said, looking at Simon. “We’ve recognized something different about some humans without realizing what it was.”

Simon nodded. “Meg.”

“The Sanguinati do not feed on the young,” Erebus said. “And we do not feed on the sweet blood, because they are both wondrous and terrible. That forbidding was done long ago, and it is still passed down from one Sanguinati to another, even though we had forgotten the reason for it.”

“Why terrible?” Tess asked, leaning forward. Her hair was still colored, but it was relaxing into loose curls.

Erebus shrugged. “Prophecies swim in that blood. I do not think I would like to see such things if I drank from a cassandra sangue.”

“Our Meg is going to stay, isn’t she?” Winter asked, sliding a look at Elliot that chilled the air. “My sisters and I would be unhappy if someone made her leave.”

How did she know about the argument between Meg and Elliot? More to the point, what would she do with that knowledge?

He didn’t want to think about that, so he focused on Henry. “What prophecy?”

Tess, Vlad, Jester, and Blair already knew about Sam somehow being connected to men coming into the Courtyard with weapons. That explained Nathan being assigned to keep watch at the Liaison’s Office and why Blair had spent the night keeping watch on the open Utilities gate. The men Meg had seen had come in during a storm.

“We have been vigilant,” Henry said. “The pup has not been alone. Meg has not been alone. They have both grown stronger in the past few days.”

Despite the potential threat seen in the prophecy, Simon relaxed a little as each member of the Business Association gave him a report. He even laughed during Blair’s account of Boone’s dealings with the Liaison and her request for special meat. There had been no clashes with humans in general or the police in particular while he’d been gone, no clashes among the terra indigene except for the misstep Elliot had made that angered the Sanguinati. But that wouldn’t happen again. He’d banish Elliot from the Lakeside Courtyard before he let the other Wolf—or anyone else—harm Meg in any way.

And Meg. Making deliveries, making friends, making a life among them in such a short time.

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