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Splintered: The Society Book 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 13647

Updated: 2019-06-11 13:10

Chapter 2

Hamilton was still seated when she returned. His eyes were closed and he was leaning back in his seat, his skin grayish around the edges. He held a custard tart, the edge looking slightly nibbled. Ivy was fairly certain it was the one he picked up when she left despite his pretense of gluttony. He didn't hear her approach even though she doubted he was actually asleep. Ivy stared at him a moment. He looked strangely vulnerable. The thought sat uneasily.

For most of her life she thought of the Shadow Council and its members as nearly omnipotent. While recent interactions were changing her view, it still knocked her back to see her one time Council representative looking frail. Ivy backed out of the room and tiptoed a little way down the hall. Turning back towards the door, she thumped her foot down louder than normal so he would hear her approach. She added weight to her steps, practically stomping, until she came in sight of the door, and then returned to her normal walking style.

This time when she stepped into the door frame, Hamilton was sitting up and looking more like his usual self.

'Or at least less like a man who was recently stabbed repeatedly by a maniac, ' Ivy thought.

"Sorry about that, " she said. "Would you like some more coffee while I'm up?"

"That would be nice, " he replied. Ivy picked up both his cup and her own, refilling both and returning his to the coffee table. She settled herself in the seat she vacated earlier.

There was a moment of silence as they each sipped their drinks. "While I appreciate the assistance with Mr. Carlson…" she began.

Hamilton smiled. "You are concerned about me citing the Old Laws?"

"Well, yes, " Ivy said. She decided not to mention the coming for coffee when he should still be confined to bed and resting. Ivy suspected somewhere there was a doctor very upset at the flagrant disregard for his orders.

"Did you think that The Shadow Council's laws would outlast the Shadow Council?" he asked.

"I…, " Ivy wasn't certain how to answer and closed her mouth.

When the Council disbanded, she thought there would be some who would take advantage and, sure enough, she saw evidence of those exacting revenge for old grudges on her last visit to the city. If she thought about it, Ivy would have guessed that the bulk of the hidden clans would remain more or less law abiding citizens rather than descend fully into anarchy.

'Except the Old Laws aren't anarchy if they are laws.'

"I don't know what I expected, " she finished weakly. Ivy took another sip of her coffee. She could feel the frown lines crinkling her forehead.

"Without Council law, we revert back to the Old Laws governing each individual Clan, " Hamilton told her. He lifted the nibbled tart to his mouth and took an actual bite.

"But the Old Laws haven't been in effect since, " Ivy wracked her brain for historic reference points. "Since… the Plantagenet's ruled England." Ivy frowned. "I think. I know the Shadow Council came into being Post-Magna Carta and Pre-Black Death. That was well before the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors." Ivy waved thoughts of dynasties away. "The feudal system was still considered a viable option at the time."

"True, " Hamilton said. He smiled with amusement. "That is why your two Seers are protected as adherents to your House."

"I'm not sure how much they'd like being called adherents, " Ivy replied.

"Do you think they'd like vassals any better?" Hamilton asked, his voice teasing.

"Probably not, " Ivy said. She suspected Irina would find the concept amusing. 'Even Nikos might find it funny at least in theory. I'm sure there is something practical and not so nice in the laws for him to object to.'

"We will probably use upgraded terminology in practice, but currently the Old Laws are in effect. To modify them we would have to hold a large conference, which at the moment is not feasible." Hamilton placed the tart down and took a sip of his coffee to wash it down as Ivy processed the information.

While she was willing to admit she occasionally tended to bend the letter of the law when it suited her, sometimes completely ignoring the spirit as well, Ivy always considered herself more or less law abiding. She occasionally dabbled in some of the gray areas, but veered away from more criminal pursuits. With a start she realized she didn't actually know what now constituted law abiding. She could be openly flouting several laws at the moment and not even realize it.

"If I'm going to break a law I'd like to at least know it, " Ivy said, mostly to herself.

Hamilton chuckled. "I take it you do not have a copy of the old laws in your rather remarkable library?"

"Not that I am aware of, " Ivy replied. She frowned. "Our library isn't that remarkable."

Hamilton smiled and shook his head. "On that we will have to agree to disagree, " he told her.

Ivy decided that once he left she would pay their library a visit to see if she could figure out why he felt it deserved recognition. For now, there were other concerns.

"Speaking of books, " Ivy began, using the library to ease into the conversation. "I still have the two books I borrowed from the archives. I will need to return them."

The thought caused Ivy a little pain. While she read each of them cover to cover, taking copious notes, they were on her list of favorite books and she hated to give them back. The lessons on identifying the various incantations used to fuse parts together to produce a golem as well as how to take apart a golem were especially interesting. As a fire mage Ivy was not well versed in dealing with golems. They were the product of earth magic and a skill her brothers never practiced. The books she borrowed were written by a fire mage for use by other fire mages and Ivy liked the thought of not being so blind when dealing with the council built golems.

'It might make them a little less scary, ' she thought.

"Ah, yes, " Hamilton replied, looking pleased. "I had forgotten about those. When you bring them back I can arrange for a copy of the Old Laws to be handed to you, so that you will at least know if you are in the process of breaking any laws."

The thought seemed to amuse him and Ivy wondered how much he knew about some of her hobbies. She went to great lengths to keep them concealed. At the moment her more questionable items were still stored in a back room waiting unpacking as she hadn't quite figured out where to put them.

'Maybe they are no longer illegal, ' Ivy mused.

"I suppose that means I can't hand them to you to return for me?" She said out loud. "Is there some rule about returning borrowed materials in person?"

"Not especially, " Hamilton said. "Although I would pre

fer if you did so."

"Oh?" Ivy suspected he was taking some time off to deal with his wounds and not spending as much time in the office.

"There have been…rumors."

Ivy blinked in surprise, not expecting the turn in conversation. "Rumors?"

"Some regarding the recent…activities regarding the Intrigues, " Hamilton said. "Others involving the inoculations."

"I see, " Ivy replied.

UniFra, the corporate front for The Brotherhood, concocted a designer virus aimed at defeating a Shifter's extraordinary immune system. Ivy figured out the inoculations would help prevent the disease's spread and got the word out to everyone she could reach. The Intrigues, shifters who turned into large cats rather than wolves, were already infected and she enlisted the aid of her friend Troy Davenport who worked at The Center for Disease Control to deal with those suffering. They managed to catch the disease early enough that there were no casualties. It was in the process of dealing with the issue that their abductions took place. Ivy shifted her thoughts away from Ron Corwin's dungeon.

"Wait, " Ivy said. "How have rumors spread? Everything was more or less secret. Even the CDC thinks that it was a covert government operation."

Actually, Troy thought the members of the Intrigues were some sort of super soldiers and part of a government funded genetics project. She wasn't entirely certain what he told his superiors about his suspicions. 'But I doubt he is spreading rumors.'

"People, in the Society at least, put together your ordering of inoculations and the sudden secret partnering with the CDC. Although Owen Martin has not spread word about the illness within his people, it is known that you did help him with something vital and that he, and the Intrigues, are very grateful to you for that assistance."

"Oh, " Ivy said.

"Admittedly, the details are hazy since very few people are offering them. In the absence of actual details, people are filling in the gaps."

"I can imagine the speculation, " Ivy said.

"Some of it is quite spectacular."

"Isn't there some sort of official story to tamp down the rumors?" she asked. Ivy had the vague notion that diverting rumors was why the official version was concocted in the first place.

"There is, " Hamilton said. "And in many corners it is accepted. There are others, who think the official version is somewhat suspect. I believe you are acquainted with many from that particular quadrant of The Society."

"Ah, " Ivy said. Many of those she counted as friends tended to be suspicious of the Shadow Council and often dabbled in less than strictly legal ventures. She could see any official story Hamilton could offer them regarding recent events leaving them less than satisfied.

"Perhaps when you return the books to the archives, you could arrange to meet with them, spend some time catching up with friends, " Hamilton suggested. "Room twenty-eight and your assistant will be at your disposal, of course, if you would like to get some work done."

"I am allowed to continue research in the archives?" Ivy asked.

"Your access has not been rescinded, " Hamilton said. "You may visit at any time and conduct any research you see fit. If, perhaps, you wished to continue the line of inquiry you were studying prior to leaving the archives to assist The Intrigues, I would, as your clan leader, like to be kept apprised of your findings. Whatever else you choose to study is of course, your own private concern."

"It is good to know I still have access, " Ivy said carefully as she mentally picked through his comments.

"I should have reminded you sooner, " Hamilton said. "You might not have stayed away so long." Hamilton set his cup and half eaten tart down and pulled slowly to his feet. Ivy hastily placed her cup down and climbed to hers as he began moving towards the door.

Hamilton's pace was a great deal more sedate than Carlson's and the two of them walked towards the main lobby in a quiet stroll. When they reached the lobby, Ivy saw it still boasted a group of shifters on the couches. They were quieter than before and even though they maintained their conversation while Hamilton and Ivy passed, she could feel their attention like an almost physical weight.

They reached the front door and Ivy stepped through, walking with Hamilton to his car. As they approached the black sedan, a driver exited the vehicle, walked around and opened the rear passenger's door for Hamilton.

"Perhaps we can meet for dinner when you return to town, " Hamilton said. "Call my assistant and we will see if our schedules align."

Before Ivy could formulate a response, Hamilton was seated in the car and the driver was closing the door. She caught a brief flash of a graying face and suspected the movement from meeting room to vehicle took a toll on the still healing man.

"At least I don't have to worry about him passing out behind the wheel, " Ivy said as she watched the car drive through the gate, leaving Wildwood and beginning its journey back to the city. The vehicle was soon out of sight, blocked from view by the trees. Knowing that the gate was only left open after Carlson's exit so that Hamilton could leave, Ivy walked over and swung the gate shut. While the gate was not technically locked, latching the gate connected the two parts of the shielding. As permanent shields were embedded in the property, the latch was extra and could only be lifted by those wishing the occupants of Wildwood no harm.

From where she stood, Ivy could see charred ground and tree stumps. During their abduction, Ron Corwin sent a contingent of The Brotherhood to infiltrate Wildwood. Their attempt set off the extra protections Ivy installed at the edge of the property just outside the fence line. Those extras kept attackers from even reaching the property's primary defenses, let alone the gate.

Ivy checked on the exterior shields when she returned and despite the unease of the Shifters, she reset them. As their unease with the buried extras stemmed from the fact that they couldn't actually sense them rather than an ethical quandary, Ivy didn't consider it a valid argument against putting them back in place.

"And a little extra is not a bad thing, " Ivy reminded herself. Personally, she would rather have enemies singed in the woods than standing on her doorstep.

"Although I never thought I'd actually have enemies, " Ivy said.

She latched the gate, feeling the shields imbedded in the metal become active as they connected. She smiled as she felt the whoosh of fire magic swirling around her. Recognizing her, the magic settled down and soon became barely detectable background noise. Shields in place, Ivy turned and started to walk back to the house.

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