As Jeremy approached the gaping mouth which had been carved into the mountainside he became more and more impressed with it’s magnitude. As he rounded the last switchback leading to the passage he finally viewed it in all it’s splendor. Ornate pillars had been carved into the rock side. These two massive posts were decorated with fantastic patterns. On the right were carved patterns of stars, animals, and what looked to be rivers. On the left were mountains, buildings, and people engaged in the tasks of life. Such was the beauty of the site Jeremy actually stopped so he could take them in further.
“They’re even more impressive a little further up the path, lad, let’s move on.”
Jeremy turned, wide eyed, to Walter. “They’re incredible, Walter. What are they for?”
Walter smiled, but nudged Jeremy to put him back into motion. “These, lad, are the pillars of The Valleys. They tell the story of the folk that live here, if ya’ know what ta look for. If you get my meaning.”
Jeremy didn’t take his eyes off the magnificent sight as he walked. “What do you mean?”
“Walter means that to really understand the meaning of the pillars you have to be learned. Most people know the basic story of our people but, as you’ve witnessed yourself, our true history is lost to most. Even those who are learned, such as Walter and I, know only what was passed down to us. The pillars are a favorite object of study for healers, in particular.”
“The healers study the pillars? Why?”
Walter directed Jeremy to a large raised platform which faced the passage through the mountain. Nearly a dozen people were seated at benches which faced the imposing site before them, and yet the space still felt spacious as the travelers found a bench separated somewhat from the rest of the crowd. Their horses were hitched to a post within view. Ama spoke once they were settled.
“The branches of healing find their roots on pillars. In fact, some of us believe it was the healers who first carved the pillars, long ago.”
Walter snorted. “The healers aren’t at the center of everything, Ama. It was the pathfinders who carved those, so we wouldn’t forget.”
Ama nodded her head. “And there are others who believe the pathfinders left them as a message.”
“What do you believe?”
Walter turned cocked his had toward his friend, an mockingly accusative expression in his eyes. Ama met the gaze, paused for a moment and cleared her throat. “I must conclude that the evidence is inconclusive.”
Walter crowed a laugh which caused some of the others on the platform to throw him annoyed stairs. “Oh Meddle, you missed your calling, you would have make a wonderful politician!”
“Yes, well. Be that as it may, the healing branches are represented on the pillars. They appear beginning in the top right, and move downward. The first is Am, the restorative branch of healing which relies on plants and minerals for the creation of our restoratives.” Ama pointed to the top of the right pillar, where images of lush trees and flowers spiraled down into a mountain scene.
“The second branch of healing is Em, which deals with the study of the wild creatures of the forest and the care of domesticated animals.” She pointed below the mountain scene, where Jeremy located carvings of wild animals such as bears wolves, birds, and even lions. These spiraled down and slowly changed over to animals like horses, cows, pigs, and goats.
“The third branch of healing is Im. These healers are aware of how the seasons and days impact people. Am healers, such as myself, will often work with Im healers to provide restoratives for people who suffer the seasons. They are marked on the pillar there by the carvings of the Sun, Moon, and stars as these bodies mark the seasons which impact our lives.” Jeremy nodded as he continued.
“The last of the organic healers is the Om branch.” Ama pointed to the top of the left pillar, marked by a scenes of people spiraling down it’s face. “These are healers of the body. They mend bones, sew flesh, and perform surgery.”
Jeremy nodded at each of Ama descriptions, but something in this one struck him as odd. “Ama, why did you say they are the last of the organic healers?”
Ama smiled, “You are an unusual young man, Jeremy, you listen quite well. The Um branch of healing deals with human constructions. It’s this branch of healing which maintains the pillars, for example. They also inspect the roads of the Valleys and make sure the town walls are intact. They also are trained to use and preserve The Devices – the last remnants we have of our life before we came to The Valleys. It was such devices, and other arts of Um healers, which carved this tunnel.”
Jeremy frowned in confusion. “That doesn’t seem like healing to me Ama, isn’t that just engineering?”
“Oh, no Jeremy, it is very much healing. The care of our great civil accomplishments helps maintain the health of all The Valleys. Um healers strengthen our psyche by making sure the peoples of The Valleys are both protected and connected – they are vital to our well-being! If it would make you feel more well-inclined toward these healers, however, they are also those trained to make eyeglasses for those whose eyesight is weak, as well as make the tools which Om surgeons use in their arts. They are very important.”
“So you all only do one type of healing? What if someone in Water Gap broke a leg, would you have to send for another healer to help them?”
“Oh no, Jeremy. We are all trained in each of the branches, we simply specialize in one over another. My eyeglasses, for example, are not as refined as an Um healer. My restoratives, on the other hand, tend to be more potent than others. My branch of healing, as you’ve already surmised, also possesses the art of calming. Our touch is able to help people slow their hearts and lessen anxiety. It gives us time to apply our restoratives for those whose are in urgent need of care. The other branches all posses their own abilities.”
“Wait, so you’re ‘Ama.’ Your apprentice was ‘Ami.’ You all take names based on your branch of medicine?”
Ama nodded. “That is correct, that way people will not only be able to identify us as healers, they will also know what type of healer we are.”
“So what’s your real name?”
As soon as Jeremy asked the question he knew he’d committed a gross social error. Ama’s face flashed in shock and Walter closed his eyes and shook his head.
He immediately backpedaled. “I’m sorry, Ama. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to ask that, I just thought…”
Ama raised her hands to quiet Jeremy. “It’s fine Jeremy, I simply haven’t been asked that question for a very long time. When healers take their oaths and choose their names, you need to understand that who we were no longer matters. We no longer belong to ourselves, but to the people of The Valleys. We never utter our old names again.”
Jeremy nodded in stunned respect. He’d become aware of how healers were treated with near reverence in Water Gap but hadn’t ever considered why they’s be treated that way. Before he could comment, however, Walter broke the silence.
“OK, that’s enough gawkin’. The history lesson is over, Meddle, we’ve got a tunnel to get to. We’ll leave the past be for now.”