I wrote this post yesterday and forgot to get it into WordPress! It’s a continuation of Welcome to the Valleys
Walter and Jeremy moved further into the city, but as they moved away from the walls the press of people began to fall away. The houses began to grow, and Jeremy even spotted some well-kept lawns. Glowing orbs, which Walter called “night torches” illuminated the streets so much that Jeremy felt the city would hardly be less bright during the day.
“The city is so bright, and there’s so many people about. When do people go to sleep?”
Walter chuckled. “Well I suppose there are already some people asleep in these houses, Lad. Folks who don’t need to be up takin’ care of some business are usually hunkered down at dark, even in the Inner Valleys.”
“But how can they sleep? The city is so bright, and the I can hear the noise from the gate all the way to right here. Doesn’t it keep them up?”
“Ahh, we are an observant one, aren’t we? Yes, the city is bright. It keeps Them out, if you catch my meaning. They don’t like the night torches. Folks stay up in their light and do business till the late hours to show we aren’t going anywhere, I’m thinkin’. Folks out by the coast have a bit more sense, but a lot less wealth, if you catch my meaning.”
“But how does anyone sleep?”
Walter pointed toward the large house they were currently passing. “See the windows, lad?”
Jeremy looked towards the homes with intent for the first time and suddenly understood. “Shutters,” he said.
Walter nodded. “Straight as the Boulevard, lad. Those shutters don’t let light pass, and do a good job keeping down the sound. Out by the coast we close the windows to keep Them from getting any ideas, but in the Inner Valleys they get put to different use.”
“I understand. But Walter, who are ‘Them?’ I don’t know who ‘They’ are.”
To Jeremy’s surprise, he saw Walter shudder before he responded. “Well, lad, that’s not a tale for the dark, and that’s the truth of it. Best not to fill you with goblin stories in the dim hours. We’ll have that chat when the Sun is up and our bones are warm, if you catch my meaning. Besides, if the good healer can get you back what your head’s forgot you might not need me to be tellin’ you about Them.”
Jeremy didn’t want to let the discussion go, now that he’d had the courage to bring it up, but he could sense Walter would say no more on the subject so he let it drop. Shortly there after the old trader clapped his hands and said, “Oh ho, we have arrived! Your healin’ is about to be given, lad. Ama is the best healer in The Valleys.” Jeremy looked up and saw a pained sign with the image of a woman holding several herbs in one hand. Her expression was kind and the unladen hand was held outward, inviting people in. The sign read, “Healer Ama, open all hours.” Walter moved to the door, turned the handle, and with a flourish flung open the portal and beckoned Jeremy inside.
The small room was well-lit and lined with several chairs. As Walter closed the door a small bell rang which summoned a kindly looking woman from an adjacent room. When she saw Walter she brightened considerably. “Walter! I haven’t seen you in ages. You’ve been away too long, old fox!” The woman rushed to greet Walter with a tight embrace. When they finally broke apart Walter seemed slightly flustered, but quickly remember why he had come.
“Ah, Ama. I have been gone too long from your joyous ways. It’s hard livin’ along the coast, it is, but it’s always nice comin’ here and seein’ you. This isn’t a social call, if you get my meaning. I’ve got a patient here who is needin’ your attention.”
Ama gave Jeremy a gentle gaze, and held it for an uncomfortable stretch before she again spoke. “Oh? Walter, dear, he seems in quite good health to me. What makes you think he is in need of my care?”
“Well, Ama, I met young Jeremy here along the road napping under a tree as night was coming on.” With that description Jeremy sensed a similar remark emerging from Ama as Raleigh had leveled on him, and prepared for a tongue-lashing. Walter also sensed this and raised his hands before Ama could issue her rebuke. “Now, Ama, I know what you’re thinkin’. This lad here wasn’t Chasing the Dark, so don’t say it. Truth is, he doesn’t know where he’s from or how he got to where I picked him up.”
Ama narrowed her eyes on Jeremy, her expression was not unkind but he did notice a hint of skepticism in her visage. “Is this true young man? You’ve lost your memories?”
Jeremy nodded. “Yes ma’am. I really don’t know how I got to where Walter met me. If he hadn’t woken me up I don’t know what would have happened.”
Ama huffed. “If Walter hadn’t taken pity on you, young man, you’d most likely be dead. Surely you know this?”
Walter broke in. “As a fact, sweet Ama, he’s not knowin’ that at all. He doesn’t know much, to be true, and what he does know is a bit on the odd side, if you’re asking me. He’s got Inner Valleys notions in his head, at least as far as I see – no homesteader would say things he says.”
“Hmm. Well, there are no reports of a youth Jeremy’s age missing from the Inner Valleys, but that doesn’t mean much.” She turned back toward Jeremy. “Is Jeremy your name, young man? Or did Walter have so much pity on you he gave you an identity as well a friendship?”
Jeremy shook his head. “No, ma’am, Jeremy is my name. I know that. That’s about all I know, though. Nothing’s familiar to me, at least.”
Ama stroked her chin in thought. “Well, there are several herbs which can induce sleep, and sometimes even cause forgetfulness. This could be your issue. At least…” Ama gently took Jeremy’s head into her hands and slowly turned it, “…I don’t see any signs of trauma.” She let go of Jeremy’s head and motioned him toward the room from which she had entered. “The good news is, if one of these herbs is your issue it is easily solved. Come back into my parlor, young man, and sample my antidotes.” With that Jeremy was ushered out of the entry hall. He was relieved to see Walter collapsing into one of the open chairs as Ama closed the door.