Today I continue a story set in the world of The Valleys. The first part can be found here
Jeremy helped Walter push his cart the last few miles towards a place he called “Water Gap.” As they travelled the Sun continued its descent behind them. The lower it descended the more restless his companion grew. The sounds of the forest began to awaken around them as the Sun went down, and the smallest of chirps would cause the older man to jump with a start.
“Walter, what’s making you so jumpy? It’s only bugs.”
Walter raised his left palm to his forehead with a jerk, but continued pushing the cart with his right hand. “Only bugs? Oh my, Jeremy, but you are a strange one. I know you don’t know where you’re from, but I’m thinking you must be from the inner valleys. They’ve got plenty of the night torches and folks there even think it romantic to go for a nighttime stroll, if you can believe it!”
Jeremy shrugged, “I don’t know why, Walter, but that seems believable to me. Moonlight walks certainly sound romantic.”
“Moonlight!” Walked hissed. “Who said anything about moonlight? Even in the inner valleys walking in moonlight has got to be a dangerous game, a dangerous game indeed. No, Jeremy best to be indoors or behind walls at night. There the night torches keep them back, and people can be left in peace.”
As Walter finished speaking the pair came around a slight bend in the road and were confronted with a large gate surrounded by burning torches. Two men stood in a small shack to the right of the road and, upon spying the two travelers, came out to greet them.
“Welcome travelers, chasing the dark a bit today, are we? The night’s almost here full on. Best get you inside. What is your business in Water Gap?”
Walter handed the guard a coin and shook the man’s hand. “Much obliged I am to you, sir. I’m in from the coast, here to trade my wares. Water is my name.” Walter then pointed to Jeremy, “This young one’s name is Jeremy. Though he don’t know much else, if you catch my meaning. I caught him snoozing under a tree as night came on and I thought I’d better bring him to the healer here in town. As I say, he don’t know all that much – but he acts like he’s from the Inner Valleys.”
The guard examined Jeremy with interest for a brief moment, but then shook his head. “From the Inner Valleys, you say? It could be, falling asleep along the Western Boulevard certainly sounds like something a youth with more daring than sense would do. We’ve not gotten any reports of missing youths, though. This is quite odd.”
Jeremy nodded and dared to speak. “Thank you sir, it is. I don’t know this place at all, nor do I remember where I’m from. I just know my name, and not much else.”
The guard smiled gently, “As they say along the coast, ‘This is certainly a watermelon.’ I’m sure this gentle trader will bring you straight to the healer and get you sorted out.” The guard then turned back toward Walter and handed the trader back his coin, much to the man’s obvious surprise. The guard chuckled, “Now I know you’re a merchant, you nearly collapsed at being given back money! We can’t accept your toll, sir, had you not brought young Jeremy in our patrol would have had to risk itself to save him. I am certain a call will come in with his description soon, if it hasn’t already and not filtered down towards the gate just yet. Use the money to pay the healer on his behalf, and I’ll inform the council how you came to be here.”
With that, the guard nodded toward his companion, who moved towards a strange-looking tube protruding from the ground. The man leaned down towards it and spoke something unintelligible to Jeremy’s ears. Shortly after speaking, however, he heard the sound of gears groaning and the gate began to rise upward. As Walter and Jeremy began to push the cart through the portal, however, they heard…. something shriek from deep in the darkened woods. As the gate began to close Jeremy overheard the guard mutter, “Far too close, they are getting bolder.”