This was a nice little interlude which further introduces the confines of Shelter. This locale is fascinating to me, especially since it’s the first location mentioned which doesn’t have a corresponding counterpart in the Minecraft world upon which The Valleys is based. I love the idea of a space of big and bright that it’s almost impossible for it not to be “outside.” Shelter’s closeness to the depths of the earth gives the people a somewhat unique perspective about darkness, one which we’ve not yet seen. I’m not certain I’ll introduce it as we pass through it this direction, but I may want to bring it up later.
Let’s unpack this part of the story.
I haven’t yet mention why the main road in The Valleys is “The Boulevard.” It’s mostly a nod to my hometown. A major road in Philly is “Roosevelt Boulevard,” which will often be shortened to “The Boulevard.” When I was constructing the Minecraft world which forms the basis of The Valleys, I took to calling the main East-West road The Boulevard, and it stuck in my head. It’s actually rather funny, given that in Philly The Boulevard runs North-South.
Recovering from Silence
I’m an introvert, and Ama’s reasons for enjoying a visit to Shelter are about as auto-biographical as I’ll get in this story. Hearing her speak about silence to reflect on her calling, and then needing the sound of people to be reminded about the wonder of their existence, is very much a me thing. It was fun to see that bit of my own personality be poured into the character of Ama.
Um healers created Shelter, and they wanted it to serve as an impressive gateway to the Inner Valleys. The outer settlements, like Water Gap and Plantation were meant to step into it’s presence and marvel at the accomplishments of their civilization. It certainly had that effect on Jeremy, but mostly the folks from “outside” just roll their eyes and go and find a place to eat.
Yes, Shelter has Restaurants and not “taverns.” These are sit down eating establishments which most folks would recognize. There are menus, specials, and even waiters and waitresses. The Valleys is not just another medieval fantasy setting, I actually want it to feel almost “modern.” Another aspect of this more modern setting is the idea of a “tourist trap,” which Shelter certainly is. There’s even a gift shop.
I wanted Ama to be able to express the terror she felt during the encounter with the shadows, and also why she seemed to recover so quickly. It’s clear that she doesn’t believe the assurance she gave Walter about the dimming of the evertorches, the memory is really nagging at her. Yet, she has a calling, and that calling has to be fulfilled because there really isn’t anyone else who can. This is another character trait which is probably born from my experience as a pastor, especially with funerals. While I tell families they are free to cry as much as they want because it’s a funeral, I often feel as though I’m called to be “the professional,” even for people with whom I am close. My weeping is done in private, so others can do it openly. Ama exemplifies this.
Ama is actually underplaying the effect “Shadestalkers” have on the people of The Valleys. Those who want to meet with them must undergo rigorous mental training before they are allowed to enter into negotiations. Even then quite a number of people find themselves incapacitated for several days after the encounter. There is something about their existence which is so utterly alien to human understanding that people’s minds have difficulty accepting their presence. Several people have actually been driven insane by the encounter and reside in a special home at The Ravine.
Jeremy’s ability to walk after so suddenly encountering the shadows, much less reflect on the encounter, is a sign of great mental strength and fortitude. He is truly remarkable.
I pointed out previously Walter had never met the “Shadestalkers” before. That doesn’t mean, however, he was never trained to interact with them. Still, his recovery is also remarkable. It was helped, though, by several of Ama’s healing touches while While Walter was distracted. There is a reason why he got so quiet as they finished the journey to Shelter, the darkness was impacting him deeply.
In case you are wondering, that’s called “foreshadowing.”