The meal ended in near silence after Jeremy’s pronouncement. Walter and Ama smiled and were polite to their waiter, but he could tell they were deeply troubled. For a time Jeremy worried that his new friends may have changed their minds about him, and decided he was dangerous after all.
Finally their dishes were cleared and the trio stood to depart. Ama offered William a heartfelt goodbye and took Jeremy’s arm as they made their way down the grand staircase. Walter followed after them in silence.
The streets of Shelter were surprisingly busy. Even more active than those of Water Gap, which tended to grow quieter the further you moved from the town walls. In Shelter, there were no quiet sections, it seemed as if the entire town woke up at night. Restaurants were everywhere, with lines of people awaiting entry at each. As they walked Jeremy noticed couples, and even entire families, strolling through the many shops and boutiques which lined Shelter’s main street. Aside from the restaurants, food carts offered up sizzling confectionaries of various sorts. Games dotted the stroll to their rooms, at which children were trying their hands.
“It’s a tourist trap!”
Ama gave Walter a warning glance, but the old trader issued a hoot of triumph.
“Ah, you saw right through it, lad, didn’t you? Meddle enjoys coming here on ‘retreat,’ she says. But here in Shelter folks of all sorts can pretend they’re living the high life, if you save up enough money to afford the place, that is.”
“Shelter is a precious getaway for many people Walter.”
“It’s all glitz and glamor, Ama, you know that. There isn’t anything here you can get better out by the coast, and far cheaper. And that’s even without The Boulevard bringin’ us goods!”
“Your coast is beautiful Walter, but I’ll take a high nook overlooking shelter for my rest.” Ama took Jeremy’s arm and pointed up towards the rock face above The Prism. “Up there, Jeremy, are many secluded nooks for those who come for rest and refreshment. Some of our best artists will retreat up into the cliffs for weeks as they create their works. From up there the rainbow show is truly magnificent.”
“I’d like to see that.”
Walter grumped, but Ama squeezed his arm and smiled, “I hope, someday, you will.”
“Healer Ama, and the Old Fox himself! I couldn’t believe we had you gracing us with your presence this evening!” Jeremy was jolted from his conversation with Ama and searched for the source of this new voice. A lanky woman came walking towards Ama with her hands stretched in greeting. The two embraced.
“Elyse, it is good to see you!”
“And you as well, we didn’t expect you for several months yet. Is it true you are staying for just the night?”
“Yah, Ama wanted to stay the week but I told her I’d rather not bankrupt myself on my way to The Ravine.”
Elyse reached out and gently slapped Walter’s hand. “Oh, hush, Old Fox. Everyone knows you enjoy Shelter. Your grumpy facade will not work on me.”
Walter crossed his arms, as if to prove Elyse’s statement entirely wrong. Jeremy had seen Walter enough by now to see through his gesture. The more Walter complained about something, it seemed, the more he actually valued it. Shelter must have held some spot in his heart.
“I hear Walter has already visited his rooms after declaring our stables ‘unfit.’ As it turns out, Old Fox, old Jacob heard you were in town and added some muck specifically for your complaining pleasure. He knows how upset you get when you have nothing to fix.”
Jeremy, much to his own surprise, actually laughed at Elyse’s joke. Ama stifled a smile at the sound, but Walter raised an eyebrow at him in warning.
“Oh, and we have not met. I’m Elyse, young sir. And you are?”
“Jeremy, miss. I’m training with Walter.”
“Oh, the Old Fox is a wonderful mentor, just be certain to make several mistakes a day and he’ll be so happy correcting your faults he might try to adopt you!”
Before Walter could come up with a retort Elyse ushered them through the front doors of her hotel.
“This way, this way! Walter has your keys, and if there is anything else you need do please come and ask.” With that, Elyse passed though a door just off the entryway to the hotel. Walter grumbled something Jeremy couldn’t quite make out and beckoned his companions forward. “This way, Elyse set us on the top floor. She knows your tastes, Ama.”
The hallway ended in a staircase, which they took up several flights of stairs. The emerged on to a rooftop overlooking the street, and the sounds of the evening revelry were echoing up to them in muted joy. Several chairs and tables were set along the roof, to their left a set of glass door sat open. Through them Jeremy could see a comfortable living area.
“Let’s go inside and chat, shall we?”