Fiction Tuesday – Identity Crisis

Walter and Ama exchanged a look, which was obviously not the reaction Michael was expecting. “I’m sorry, Healer Ama, if I’ve been presumptuous. But I know of no other way to assure your arrival in Meadow Run.”

“I thought you said the guards on First Run don’t recognize your authority.”

Michael shook his head. “No, I said they don’t recognize the authority of my messages. I am a Captain of Post, however, and I will not be barred from any site on roadways of The Valleys. That courtesy extends, of course, to any who travel with me.”

As Walter stroked his chin in contemplation, Ama spoke up, “But, surely, you shouldn’t leave your post. I’ve seen the impact you have here on behalf of travelers like ourselves. I’d hate to have others suffer because you decided to travel with us.”

“You are correct, Healer Ama. I cannot leave my post. Happily, I am due to rotate home for my week of rest. I had planned to leave tomorrow at daybreak, but I would gladly assist you and the Old Fox on your way.”

“And your replacement is like you, then?”

“Yes sir. He’s an old guard and won’t put up with this nonsense. He’s also brought a squad of good lads with him to even things out.”

Walter continued stroking his chin, “Well, that gives me some hope. Command isn’t all going along with this.”

Michael nodded, and then stood at attention. “Sir. I offer my services as escort to Meadow Run, and then to The Ravine if you have need.”

Walter rubbed his temples. “All right, Captain, your services would be much appreciated. But let’s cut that ‘sir’ business off the vine. I’m here as a trader from The Coast, and nothing more. Got it?”

Michael grinned widely, “Well, sir, you might think that is all you are. But I don’t think you’ll be treated that way.”

Jeremy looked into Walter’s eyes, which betrayed a mixture of grief and sudden wariness. Ama attempted to conceal a grin, but he could also see concern in her gaze as well. As he pondered this, Michael gave Walter a salute and requested permission to fetch his pack. As he trotted off, Walter and Ama relaxed slightly.

“Well, Old Fox, it seems you’ve picked up another stray.”

“Yes, Meddle. It’s a habit, I’ll admit. But I’m a bit concerned by Michael’s comments. It appears we’ve lost our chance for a low-key approach to The Ravine.”

“And now we’ll even have an official escort. You might as well drop the trader persona now, Walter, no one is going to believe it.”

“I am a trader, Meddle, no matter what these folks want me to be. I’ve got wares to present, and I’m going to present them.”

“Walter?”

“What is it, lad?”

“Well, that guard, Michael, keeps saluting you. Were you a guard?”

“A long time ago, lad. In a different life. It appears folks around these parts don’t forget as easily as I’d like.”

“But why did you leave?”

“Walter enjoys sharing his opinions, Jeremy.”

Jeremy turned to Ama with a quizzical expression. She smiled, but Walter scowled.

“That’s enough, Meddle. I left for good reasons, lad, and that’ll have to be enough for now.”

“But…”

“No. No ‘buts.’ I dare say you’ll get an earful soon enough on this trip, just know half of it ain’t true.” Ama opened her mouth to retort but Walter held up a warning hand. “No, Meddle. I do not like being back here, and I don’t want to be what these people want me to be.”

Ama frowned, but remained silent, so it was Jeremy who responded. “But Walter, I don’t think you have much of a choice.”

The old man spun to face Jeremy, a fierce and pained look on his face. “Lad, why in all The Valleys would you say something like that?”

A voice whispered from a nearby evertorch. “The treaty has been broken, the Old Fox is summoned.”

“OK, while Michael is traveling with us that has got to stop. Understood?” No response came, but the light from the evertorch seemed to dim slightly in the daylight.

“We all have our roles to play, Walter, and your’s has always been one of prominence.”

“Well, Meddle, sometimes I wish I could just tell whoever handed me my part to leave me alone.”

Much to Jeremy’s shock, Ama actually laughed. It wasn’t a polite chuckle or guffaw, but a full-bellied bark of glee. As Walter and Jeremy gazed at he with incredulity she finally calmed down enough to speak.

“Walter, you dear fool. You don’t mean that for an instant.”

“Oh, I don’t? Is that right?”

“Yes, Old Fox, it is. You can’t help but be at the center of things. You migrate to the heart out of habit, and people gratefully make space for you.”

“I haven’t been in a place of prominence for years, Meddle. I left all this behind when I went to live along The Coast.”

“But, Walter, aren’t you important out there?” Jeremy pointed East back along the Boulevard. “I mean, of all the people they could have sent to the Senate, they choose you, why?”

“Well, lad, ‘cause I have experience with the place.”

“And who, you Old Fox, convinced them to send a delegate to the Senate in the first place?”

“Well, folks asked how we could leverage the evercoal deposit and I may have suggested it, but…”

Ama held up a finger. “No ‘buts!’ You, Walter, exist to be in the center. So much so that, even when you think you’re leaving it behind, you find you bring it with you.”

“And look at how you’ve treated me, Walter. You could have just dropped me off with the guard at the gate and gone on your way, but you didn’t.”

“Well, lad, I couldn’t just…”

Exactly. You couldn’t help but stick near someone who stuck out like a sore thumb. I know I haven’t known you for long, Walter, but I’ve watched you.”

“Really now?”

“Yes. And, even before Ama told me about your fake accent…”

“It’s not fake, it’s…”

“It doesn’t matter what it is. The point is, even before that I knew you weren’t just some old trader. Ama says you pick up strays, but I think you pick up specific strays. Ones you know are important for the well-being of everyone and who need your help.”

“Jeremy has you pegged, Old Fox. And, as he said, you’ve just managed to pick up another stray.”

“It’s not like I did it on purpose, Meddle.”

“No, but you do it nevertheless. Jeremy, close your eyes and think for a moment. When you’ve heard Michael speak, what color have you sensed?”

Jeremy closed his eyes tightly and found himself awash in a endless ocean of threatening purple. His heart began to race and he was about to pull back from the sight when he felt a light touch on his arm.

“It’s all right, Jeremy, the colors cannot hurt you. Concentrate on Michael, what do you see?”

His heart calmed somewhat and a form began to appear in the midst of the purple expanse. It coalesced in a deep, earthy, color. Jeremy opened his eyes and found Michael looking at him, a curious express alight on his face. Focusing on the guard he pointed and said, “Brown. When I focus on Michael I see brown.”

The guard smiled as Ama and Walter’s worried expressions. “The color of faithfulness and loyalty. I am honored, young sir. I can see this is going to be an interesting journey.”

3 Comments

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  1. Jeremey is getting bolder and wise. There is something mystical about jeremey seeing colors associated with people.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Still no connection

    Sent from my iPad

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