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Splintered: The Society Book 3 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 11649

Updated: 2019-06-11 13:12


Chapter 5

Russell was waiting beside the back door when Ivy returned. Even though he was blocking his emotions, his face looked thoughtful.

"Ready, " she asked. Russell nodded and took her hand in his as they slipped into the darkened yard. The sun was low, but it was still evening as they strolled through the grounds of Wildwood. In the lengthening shadows, Ivy could see the outlines of the outbuildings. They deliberately avoided the barn even though Ivy knew the animals didn't really suspect her of nefarious doings. She didn't know anything about lambing, but she knew it stressed Max out. While she occasionally liked to push her brother's buttons, doing so when he was stressed wasn't fun for either of them.

They passed trays of seedlings taking in the evening air and Ivy knew her brother would check the weather reports to see if they needed to be pulled in or if they could spend the night outside. In what was once a bare expanse of ground, Ivy could see rows of fruit and nut trees that would one day supply the house.

"So what was it Carlson wanted?" Russell asked when they were away from the house and on the meandering path that wound its way through the property.

"He wanted Irina and Nick, " Ivy told him. "So why was Simon acting like a jackass?"

Russell laughed. "He's worried. The more worried he gets the more obnoxious he becomes. It's always been one of his less appealing traits. Since one of the things that worry him is mage involvement in the pack, he was a bit more suspicious of you than usual. Especially, since you seemed to know more than he thought you should."

"He does know that secret meetings should be held in secret places right?" Ivy asked. "And since people have been muttering about John wanting to retire guessing wasn't all that difficult?"

"Subtlety is not Simon's strong suit." Russell said.

This time Ivy laughed. "And the rest of you are just masters at it?"

"Only by comparison, " Russell admitted. "And for wolves. You can't compare us to mages. None of you ever actually say what you want to talk about. You use glances and the adjustments of tea leaves."

"The Seers use the tea leaves, " Ivy reminded him. "Although when Meeting with Carlson and Hamilton, I did wonder if Carlson's not using a saucer was a deliberate sign or not."

"See even you find it hard to keep track."

"Only because Carlson is a Seer not a mage. I've never really dealt with the Seer clan. With a mage it would definitely be a deliberate act. Speaking of mages though, why is Simon concerned about us?"

"He's worried you'll become involved in pack business, especially if I take leadership of the pack. He thinks he could maintain a distance between the mages and wolves better than I can."

"Is he worried about me specifically or mages in general?"

"In general, " Russell said, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Thus far you've proven pretty good at being there to help when needed and then leaving us alone. He thought that was why the others were here, to convince you to become more active in pack business."

"Trust me, the pack is not why they were here, " Ivy assured him.

"So it was more than looking for Nick and Irina?" Russell asked.

"Yeah, " Ivy confessed. "Hamilton wants me to go to the city to squash rumors and do research. I get a copy of the old laws and the ability to research my own topics of study without supervision as a bribe for helping him out. As he has already invited me to dinner when I arrive, I doubt he'll take refusal well."

"Why would he give you a copy of the old laws?"

Ivy explained the lack of council law. "So under those laws Irina and Nick are adherents to my mage house and I can protect them from the Seers, " she finished.

The two of them walked in silence for a little while as Russell mulled the information over. "I guess since the title was transferred to you first, this would be considered a Mage house, " he finally said. "Do the old laws say anything about shifters?"

"No clue, " Ivy said. "What I remember is that Mage houses were set up like noble houses in an age of feudalism." She shook her head. "I suppose I should have serfs out here dealing with the animals and plants instead of my brothers, but I haven't exactly built up the estate and raided the peasant villages lately or however it is you get serfs to your land."

"Well, that was careless of you, " Russell said. Laughter stained his voice.

"Extremely, " Ivy agreed.

"I think you inherit serfs anyway, or the right to use serfs, " Russell added.

"Oh, " Ivy replied. "I suppose that is better than the box traps I was planning to use. Especially, since I wasn't certain what bait to use."

Russell chuckled and for a while they walked in companionable silence. Ivy noticed the air warmed up enough that the woods were alive with the sound of night insects. Things were starting to come out of hibernation. She saw an owl glide across the sky in search of prey. It was still chilly, but the world was waking up.

"I don't think I'll be able to refuse to go into the city, but as I've got my meeting with Petra already scheduled for the day after tomorrow, I can put it off a few days. More maybe if I don't schedule it until after my meeting with her. As long as I call Hamilton's assistant with a date I should be fine, " Ivy said.

"I'm going to need to stay here to deal with the pack business, " Russell told her. He looked worried.

"I don't need a body guard, " she told him. He didn't look convinced. "And it is mage business, " she added. Russell frowned at her. "I stay out of pack business unless you need me, " she reminded him.

"True, " he conceded. He didn't sound happy. "Thus far pack business hasn't gotten you kidnapped."

"I think that was In

trigues business rather than mage stuff, " Ivy said.

"The mugger and fake cop wasn't the Intrigues, " Russell said.

"No, I think they were because of the packs."

"It was about mages, " he protested.

"No, " Ivy said shaking her head. "It was about a mage helping the packs."

He huffed, unable to dispute her reasoning. They continued walking.

"Are you going to lead the pack?" Ivy asked after a while.

"Maybe, " he admitted. "I think I'd be better at it than Simon. I'm pretty sure even Simon thinks I'd do better. He just…"

"Doesn't like mages?" Ivy finished.

"Doesn't want them involved in pack business, " he corrected. "He is more of an isolationist when it comes to pack business. The pack stands alone, occasionally working with a neighboring pack if something affects both of them."

"Uh huh, and what did he think of the inoculations?" Ivy asked.

Russell sighed. "He thought you were being paranoid and meddling in pack business, " he admitted.

"Did he get the inoculation?"

"Yes, " Russell said. He smiled. "Uncle John ordered it and Sarah backed him up."

"But he still thinks the pack could have dealt with it on its own?" Ivy asked. "Despite William's pack."

"I'm sure deep down he knows we needed the help, " Russell said.

"Uh huh."

"Really deep down, " he added. Russell sounded tired and Ivy wondered if that was one of the arguments she missed.

"If we've returned to the old laws, an isolationist policy isn't going to work, " Ivy said.

"What do you mean?" Russell asked. "It sounds like it might be the best thing. For now anyway."

Ivy shook her head. "I may not know the details, but I do know that there was a system of personal alliances between families and the lines between the clans were somewhat blurred."

"So?"

"So, if the disbanding of the council is a short term situation, it might not affect you too much. If the return to the old laws becomes more permanent, even with updated modifications, the longer it lasts the more an isolationist policy would hurt your pack."

"Why?" he asked sounding puzzled.

Ivy shook her head, amazed he didn't see it. "The limiting of a pack's size and the amount of territory they can hold isn't a terribly old law. They only finalized it in the nineteen sixties or seventies. That means if we revert to the old laws, it is more or less null unless the packs get together and decided to keep it as part of their clan laws."

Russell snorted. "Not likely, " he told her. "But we are the largest pack."

"You are now, " Ivy pointed out. "Because you were just under the limit when they restricted size. Other packs were split because they were too large. What if they decide they don't want to be split anymore? And then decide to make alliances with strong mages?"

They were quiet as Russell thought through the ramifications. "I didn't think of that, " he said finally.

"I don't think anyone has, yet, " Ivy replied. "I didn't even think about the laws changing until Hamilton brought it up. It makes sense once you think about it."

"But no one has thought it through yet." Russell frowned. "But now that everyone knows the Brotherhood was splitting things up, maybe the Shadow Council will be reinstated."

"Maybe, " Ivy said.

"But you don't think so?"

Ivy shook her head. "The Brotherhood exploited existing rifts and issues, it didn't create them. And not just between clans. They paid mages to falsely report other mages. Many of those reporting were highly placed. We'd have a whole lot of issues to deal with as a clan before we would even be willing to sit at a table and discuss the return of the council, " Ivy said.

"But you all follow the same laws, " Russell said.

"Yeah but we are more like…Italy before it unified. They were technically all under Catholic rules so to speak, but each City-State was its own entity with secular laws. Each mage follows the basic clan laws even if it isn't a religion, but we each have our own little kingdoms within our property limits. I think it's why mages still sort of live in communities. An alliance between neighbors can safeguard a village, or something to that effect."

Ivy shook her head. Bits and pieces of old lessons were circling in her mind, but the lessons were so long ago she couldn't remember them clearly. "I don't know the details, but I suspect once I read the old laws it will relate more to how each mage house deals with other mage houses than anything else."

"Like an international treaty, " Russell said. He sounded amused rather than concerned and she was glad to hear the change.

"Something like that, " she admitted.

"So in addition to dealing with Irina, there may be stuff dealing with the Sifters?"

"Yeah, " Ivy said. "I really need to get a copy of those laws."

"So it might be a good thing that you go to the city after meeting with Petra, " Russell said.

"Because I'll be out of the way of pack business, even if I am finding out how to deal with you?" She guessed.

"It might be a good idea for you not to be around, " he admitted. "But I don't like you being alone."

Ivy smiled. After spending so much time living alone, she still found it strange sometimes to have so much company. "I doubt I'll have that much time on my own, " she admitted. "I'll be in the archives and at the apartment alone, more or less, but then I'll be meeting with people."

"Well, there is that, " Russell said. "And the archives are safe. Not as safe as your apartment. At least I don't think the archives sets fire to people like your front door does."

"My door only attacks when someone tries to force it open, " Ivy reminded him. "And I'm sure the archives have even creepier defenses."

"True, " he admitted. He looked happy at the thought.

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