Jeremy remained in silent shock. What Ama and Walter had told him about people wanting to use him for their own ends stoked in him a fire of fear. Minister Kalson, taking notice of Jeremy’s growing discomfort, raised a reassuring hand to the youth.
“You have nothing to fear from this council, Jeremy. I assure you. We are merely curious.” Kalson then tilted his head in a shrug of apology. “That is not entirely true, of course. Your presence also excites us.”
Jeremy found his voice. “Excites you, minister?”
The middle-aged woman who had pointed out the flags raised by Jeremy’s tale responded. “Yes, Jeremy, excited. If what we suspect is true, then you are the first newcomer to the valley in centuries.”
“Should you regain your memory, young man, you can bring us news of The Previous,” added yet another council member, from the far end of the table.
“Yes, Jeremy, The Previous,” the council member continued. “We are ourselves immigrants to The Valleys, coming to this world as we fled destruction and death. The Previous, is the place from which our people came. The place from which you are from, if we are correct.
“We have lost our memory of The Previous over the centuries, and now only speak about it in stories of myth and legend. The portals were all closed, or so we believed, so discovering ourselves was a path not open to those of us who desired to solve our own mysteries.”
Minister Kalson again spoke, “You, Jeremy, could help tell us who we are. Or, at least, who we had been. If your memory should return we might even discover if we are remembered at all in The Previous.”
Jeremy’s anxiety returned once more. He wasn’t certain what answers he would be able to give anyone, as far as he knew his arrival in The Valleys was an accident. Not wanting to disappoint his hosts, he kept his doubts to himself. Instead, he found himself saying, “I suppose I can understand why that might be exciting.”
Walter placed a hand on Jeremy’s left shoulder. “Now Minister Kalson, I can see why th’council might be a bit excited by the lad here. But let’s not jump the cliff just yet, if you catch my meaning. We don’t know where Jeremy is from, nor does he, if you understand. We were tryin’ to get outta Water Gap nice and quiet, I hope the council can understand that?”
Kalson nodded. “We can, indeed, Old Fox. Rest assured we have no interest in disclosing Jeremy’s identity before he is ready to come forward – though we all know there are those who would like nothing better.
“I would like to know from our healer, however, why she felt the need to keep this from the council.” Kalson turned toward Ama and, while saying no more, indicated that an answer was expected.
Ama’s pleasant mask hardened slightly at the not-so-veiled accusation, but she did not answer with anger in her voice. “I do not answer to this council, Kalson, as you all know well, but my failure to disclose Jeremy’s potential origin was not meant as a slight to you. I merely didn’t want news of his presence arriving at The Ravine before he does.”
“You do not believe we can be trusted?” chimed a voice.
“I believe, Minister Vella, that something as exciting as this is difficult to keep quiet. If I am mistaken, I apologize.”
Jeremy identified Minister Vella several seats across the table on his right. She did not appear appeased by Ama’s remarks, but spoke no more. Kalson broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Ama, I can see your concern. I also understand you do not answer to the council, but in this you were perhaps mistaken. Perhaps the Old Fox is rubbing off on your more than you know?”
Walter grumped audibly as Ama nodded. “This could be the case Kalson, Walter’s mistrust of politicians is well-known.”
Kalson smiled. “True as this may be, may I humbly suggest in this instance his mistrust is misplaced. You, no doubt, will be presenting Jeremy to the Senate when you arrive in The Ravine?”
Walter nodded. “Yah, that is the plan.”
“Then perhaps we can arrange for his unveiling to be less, shall we say, public?”
“Well, we weren’t planning on marchin’ into th’place and sayin’, ‘Hey, brand new pathfinder here. Make way!’”
Several of those seated around the table chuckled, Kalson grinned. “No, Old Fox, I don’t suppose that is something you’d do. But we will help you nonetheless. I will compose a letter of introduction, under this council’s seal, for Senator Kaitlyn. Without disclosing Jeremy’s full story, it will suggest you all be invited to a executive session, rather than a full senate meeting, where Jeremy can tell his tale to a more… intimate gathering.”
“Kalson, I am indebted to your discretion.”
“And perhaps I will call in that debt one day, Ama. Now, I believe you have many preparations to make before you depart in the morning. Our letter will be prepared and delivered to your home by evening meal.”
Ama and Walter stood. Jeremy then did likewise and followed Walter’s example as he bowed slightly. The trio then departed the platform and made their way out of the hall.
Once outside, Walter grinned, though Ama was noticeably relieved. “Well, Meddle, I’d say that went better than ya planned.”