Yesterday the party finally entered into the tunnel which will take them into the inner valleys. It’s been fascinating for me as the writer to see how many words the little interactions in the story use. I really want to give the impression that the world of The Valleys is a living and breathing world where most folks simply live ordinary lives. To that end, minor characters like the person manning the ticket booth or the guard who offered friendly advice help give The Valleys a heartbeat. At least, I think so. Now, let’s unpack this section.
I like pun the title for this section creates. I’m just weird that way.
The Pillars Up Close
Whoever made the Pillars of the Valleys, Jeremy notices something important about them, even though he doesn’t figure it out while passing under them. The Pillars, from the very start, were meant to be studied. In fact, they are entirely unadorned at any point where the surface faces the mountain. The pillars were, in fact, carved away from the side of the mountains. The location which became the tunnel’s entrance used to be a huge cavern, one whose roof was high up the mountain.
The Pillars do, in fact, predate the creation of The Boulevard. Water Gap was settled nearby because of them. Before the tunnel, it was a remote location, but Water Gap was never just a sleepy little village.
Walter’s complains about the toll are not, despite Ama’s chiding, simply about his reputation as a “miserly trader.” He has not been to the Inner Valleys in a long time. Like a person who moves away from home and returns years later to find things changed, Walter might be in for some other eye-opening moments.
Travel in The Valleys is always about getting indoors before nightfall. Emergence Lodge is a hotel at the other end of the tunnel. And, yes, the two sides do have ways to communicate rapidly over long distances. The other end of the tunnel is actually the walled courtyard for Lodge, just in case travelers arrive after dark (which is unusual).
While the trip through the tunnel can be made in one day, it’s a hard march. The path isn’t entirely level, and even it’s slight incline when moving Westward can become tiring after several hours. Most people who insist on arriving at the Lodge in one day stay in shelters near the entrance and leave with the break of day. Even in a tunnel line from end to end with evertorches, the people of The Valleys do not want to be on road after dark.
Shelter is a combination settlement/rest stop deep inside the mountain. Walter has some personal grudges with the people who run the place, which is why he doesn’t want to make his trek easier and spend the night within it’s confines. Most travelers, however, enjoy the unique environment and take lodging at Shelter overnight. Ama has even taken several retreats there over the years. Walter would probably have a difficult time forgiving her if he knew this about her He really does not care for the place.
It’s interesting to me what some of these characters end up saying. Some sayings, such as something being “a watermelon” are certainly native to The Valleys. Then, suddenly, I find Walter using a statement like “died and gone to heaven.” I’m honestly not certain what the general level of spiritual and religious impulses is, or what most folk believe. So it was interesting to find the concept of “heaven” is still in their lexicon.
Walter and Ama are still taking the lion’s share of the dialog at this point. In the next two sections, however, Jeremy is going to finally take center stage. He can’t be along for the ride forever.