Yesterday’s post completed the transition from the Tunnel and into the Inner Valleys proper. Interesting things are happening and we got to re-introduce a character whom I believe will be staying around for a bit. Let’s unpack.
Walter gets a clue
I think the shadow’s recent willingness to participate in the group’s conversation has helped Walter has finally figure out he’s not in the Inner Valleys as he rememberes them. He and Ama, and Jeremy as well for that matter, have been rather cavalier about discussing some rather incendiary thoughts up to this point. In the past most folks in The Valleys wouldn’t think to overhear someone’s conversation. In fact, they used to go out of their way to not hear someone else’s conversation. Things have changed, however, and mistrust has opened people’s ears wide, and they aren’t hearing very nice things. It will be best for them if they speak in private from now on.
What’s with the Watermelons?
Walter’s favorite saying to highlight a bad situation is, “this is a watermelon.” In this passage he say he’ll “swallow the rind” if he’s proven wrong in his assumption. What on earth is his fixation with watermelons?
I kind of like the turn of phrase, though.
The Roads of the Inner Valleys
The Boulevard is the main artery in The Valleys, but it is far from the only one. “First Run” splits off from the main road, traveling North before gradually bending around after Meadow Run and moving back toward The Ravine. Another smaller road, The Forest Tail, exits Meadow Run from the East and travels in a clockwise circle through a dense forest, finally ending in Riverside. A larger road, Fourth Run, exits Riverside from it’s Western boundary and circles back to The Ravine, eventually merging with First Run.
Many of the junctions have traveller’s lodges, which most folks would rather avoid. These over-crowded and unfriendly locales are mediocre in the best of times. In the current climate of the Inner Valleys they are becoming dangerous. Between the lodges and the cafeteria you should be getting a hint. “Hospitality” and “Inner Valleys” do not, typically, get along.
I’ve had Merkot’s personality in my head for months, but he just let me know his name today. He’s a classic manipulator, and will be the primary adversary while the party is in the Inner Valleys. Merkot is a skilled politician and public speaker, but as of late his more prejudiced ideas are finding a wide hearing, and he’s getting quite a bit of clout as a result. It’s Merkot who has been changing the way the guards are trained, and have been manipulating the program for years.
Walter and Merkot, for reasons I do not yet fully know, despise each other.
Talum is a good healer, but he is a research nut. For the last five days he’s probably been quite happy that no one has bothered him. As much of Merkot’s influence has been projected from The Ravine he never really noticed a growing sense of hostility in the town. Talum is a good healer. He’s just a bit preoccupied.
The roadblock into Meadow Run went up the day Jeremy appeared to Walter on the way into Water Gap. But Michael pointed out that the hints of this step being taken had been flying around for weeks. In fact, they began the day Walter was nudged toward the Inner Valleys by the Shadows. Someone in the Inner Valleys a greater awareness of what’s going on than our protagonists. Whatever is coming from the Outer Settlements has them spooked.
The question is, how are they coming by their information? Also, why is blocking Meadow Run so important?
The Old Guard
When I figured out Michael would be staying around for a while I actually filled out a character sheet for him in my Scrivener project 1. He has an interesting backstory, he actually grew up in Shelter, and has a peculiar ability for the people of The Valleys. He listens. He doesn’t eavesdrop, at least he doesn’t intend to, and uses great discretion with the information he hears from others. His ability makes him an excellent guard, and almost certainly has had an impact on his decision to join the party.
In one of the most interesting, and certainly undressed, moments in the passage is when Michael salutes Walter. The old trader isn’t pleased by it, but acknowledges the salute himself. Walter was obviously connected to the guards in some way, and still holds an incredible level of sway with them, even after being absent for decades.
- In fact, he’s only the second character to get this treatment. Remember, I began this as a blog series. I didn’t know how far it would go. ↩