Jeremy climbed the steps after Ama, uncertain what to expect at the end of the climb. As he completed his ascent and turned the corner he couldn’t help but let out a small gasp. Ama had led Jeremy into a restaurant which took up almost a full block of Settlement’s rooftops, terraced toward the street upon which the pair had recently strolled. Jeremy let his eyes gaze over the town. From this height he could see some of Settlement’s wheat fields off in the cavernous distance. Above, the sky rained down through Shelter’s crystal rooftop. Jeremy noted it had begun to be marked by a slight tinge of red.
“Greetings, healer Ama!” Jeremy shifted his gaze to locate the source of the greeting, a slightly built man with a kind face and slightly greying hair. Ama reached out and took the man’s offered hand.
“William, wonderful to see you! How are you this evening?”
“Very well, honored healer. I thank you for asking. Are you in Settlement for retreat? Shall I make your usual arrangements?”
Ama shook here head. “Sadly, kind sir, I am only passing this one night in Settlement. But I wanted young Jeremy here to experience on of its true wonders before I am forced to take him away to The Ravine.”
At Ama’s mention of him, William took interest in Jeremy for the first time. He regarded him kindly for a moment with a broad smile. “Oh? A new apprentice so soon? Ami trained quickly indeed!”
Jeremy smiled awkwardly, but Ama spared him much discomfort. “No, William, I am afraid Jeremy is not meant for me. He is apprenticed to Walter.”
“Walter! Is the Old Fox here in Shelter then? And staying the night no less?”
Ama grinned, “That is the case. Walter and I each have business in The Ravine and are traveling together. Ami has been left as healer in Water Gap in my absence.”
“Such a great task for one so young.”
“She is more than up to the challenge, I assure you.”
William grinned at Ama’s words. “I will be sure to let her mother hears your praise, Healer Ama. May I find you a table for three, then?”
“That would be excellent, William. Thank you.”
William motioned for the pair to wait while he prepared a table suitable for such “honored guests,” as he put it. Jeremy took the moment to speak a question the conversation had compelled him to ask.
“Does he know Ami?”
“Oh yes, William is Ami’s uncle. She’s from Settlement. I found her six years ago when I had come here for retreat. Ami had a natural ability to comfort and calm others, at a level I’d not ever seen in one so young.”
“Right this way, if you please.”
William led the pair to a small table just below portal from which the stairs emerged. Jeremy took a seat at the table and found his view of the town was unobstructed by the surrounding tables. The restaurant was mostly empty, but he caught a glimpse of the street below and found them filling with people. Settlement was coming awake for it’s evening entertainment.
Ama ordered a pitcher of iced tea for the table, and William brought over a basket of fresh rolls for them to enjoy. Jeremy enjoyed the warm, crusty, bread. The tea was also quite good, filled with flavors he had never before tasted. As they sat and relaxed, the terraces of the restaurant slowly filled up. Yet, the tone of the place was quite and peaceful. After such a stressful journey he was glad for the atmosphere.
Several diners had already been served their entrees by the time Walter arrived to their table. He was changed into a fresh set of clothes cut in his usual style, loose pants and an over-large shirt cut from green clothe. He’d obviously considered Ama’s sense of propriety and bathed before joining them in The Prism.
“How are the horses, Walter?”
“Fine, lad, now that I’ve got their stalls properly attired. Folks who live underground should not be allowed to care for animals.”
Ama grinned, “You mucked out the stalls, didn’t you, Old Fox?”
“For what they are charging I would be ashamed of conditions like that! Had to stop, though, I didn’t want ta miss the show. I need it after…” Walter let his sentence hang, his companions understood without picking up the topic. The events in the tunnel had undoubtedly affected him.
After a moment, Jeremy considered the rest of what Walter had said. “Walter, what show?”
The old trader grinned mischievously, “Just watch, lad, any moment now.”
“Hush, Jeremy, you’ll see momentarily.”
A gong sounded among the terraces of the restaurant, and all conversation ceased. Jeremy looked around and noticed people had turned their heads toward the town, angled up towards the dome. With the prompting of Ama, Jeremy followed suit and took notice that the Sky had become a deep auburn. Deep in the horizon the disc of the sun was creeping its way towards it’s nighttime journey.
And then, the dome changed. The light from the descending star stuck Shelter’s artificial sky and shattered. The auburn of the atmosphere was replaced by a rainbow arc which flowed through the crystal, causing the world below to be bathed in prismatic light.
Jeremy sat, stunned. At that moment he knew one thing for certain. Shadows and troubles may follow him, but he could not allow a place filled with such wonders to be lost.