I’ve been saying for a while the society of The Valleys is not as idyllic as it’s seemed up to this point. “Gateway” is the first inclination of this darker reality. Let’s unpack some of the more interesting bits.
The political situation
Jeremy has arrived at a time in which the same societal forces which drove Walter to the Coast are erupting with hostility and mistrust. The relationship between the Inner Valleys and the outer settlements has always been stressed. The Inner Valleys jealously guard their status and wealth, while the outer settlements resent the way their resources are consumed 1. It’s never been hostile, however, as both segments of the society realize they need each other to survive. Some outer settlements, such as Water Gap, have risen to the status of being almost part of the Inner Valleys. Others, like Plantation, are derided as backwaters. The Coastlands are seen as uncultured and lawless, mostly because the roads don’t run out all the way to the Coast.
Walter has evercoal
Yes, I need a better name than “evercoal,” but it works off of “evertorch.” The coal is, in fact, the reason Walter had returned to the Inner Valleys in the first place. High Cliff, the largest settlement in the Coastlands (about two weeks walk from The Ravine) had uncovered a large seam of evercoal – they sent Walter to negotiate the extension of the roadways out to their town. The importance of evertorches in the society of The Valleys means a rich supply of evercoal is extremely valuable.
Up until High Cliff discovered evercoal near their town, the only sources of the ore were found in the Inner Valleys, and most of their mines are almost tapped out. The discovery of another seam is going to be rather disruptive to The Valleys on many levels.
Given the amount of animosity people are feeling towards bad policing in the USA, making a guard the first example of the class divide inherent in The Valleys seemed obvious. Still, I didn’t want to make Gellan a mere caricature. He isn’t cartoon henchmen, but a real person who has had his natural prejudices stoked by some manipulative training. Several months before Walter undertook his mission to The Ravine, applicants for the guards began to be accepted based on certain more hardened attitudes against outer settlements – these were reinforced throughout their instruction.
Guards like Gellan are actually a relatively new phenomena of which even Ama, with her contacts on the Water Gap council, had not been aware. At the moment they are kept in check by the older guards, who are doing their best to undo the bad training but are fighting a losing battle. Senators from outer settlements, particularly the large town of Woodhall, have been causing quite a stir in the senate over the current guard policy. Sadly, their historic level of under-representation has kept them from successfully repealing the new objectives.
Jeremy and his friends are not walking into friendly confines.
The Old Fox has some power
The nearer Walter gets to The Ravine, the more his actual identity are going to come to the fore. Gellan didn’t have the time of day for a poor trader from the Coastlands, but the moment Michael identified him as the “Old Fox,” he immediately changed his tune. Walter is the stuff of legend in the Inner Valleys, and remains so even decades after his departure.
The way Walter shifts to shouting commands, expecting to be heeded, is another large clue as to who he was. The fact that both guards call him “sir” is even more so. It’s still not the whole of who he is, but it’s a large bit.
- Which sounds awful contemporary. ↩