I was happy to do some more character development in this passage. Ama got to act as moderating presence for Walter, Michael got to see a small crack in his shining vision of Walter, and Jeremy came to a strong conviction. Lets’ unpack.
We had such an ugly introduction to the Inner Valleys that I wanted to spend some time letting Jeremy experience some of it’s beauty. There are problems with the political structures in The Valleys, and the Inner Valleys do take more than they give. Most people there, however, are not like the guards or fear-mongering politicians. They are hard-working, peaceful, and actually quite generous. It’s important to see these people as people, and not merely those who are fortunate enough to been born in a wealthy area. After all, if they were all arrogant, selfish, and xenophobic, why would we care if Jeremy helped to save them from disaster?
Ama moderates Walter
Walter and Ama play off of each other extremely well. As Walter returns to the heart of the Inner Valleys, however, much of his more forceful persona is going to emerge. Ama is going to find herself, more and more, moderating Walter’s impact on his surroundings. It’s not that Walter is a bad guy, he’s actually a wonderfully compassionate soul, it’s just that his biggest blind spot is his own natural authority. He really does not see how when he shows up people get out of his way. Nor does he understand how is off-hand remarks are sometimes taken as commands. Ama will help Walter negotiate this blind spot, until he gets his footing back.
“… a brown man, through and through”
This is nothing more than simple role reversal. In so much of human culture its the expensive or difficult to maintain colors which designate things like honor, royalty, and purity. Purple, in part, became designated for royalty because it was so expensive. White was linked with purity because keeping something while is next to impossible. Cheap and easy colors, like browns, were the realm of the common.
Sadly, these thoughts got transferred to skin color. “White” became associated with “good upstanding person” and all other colors got linked with laziness, savagery, or untrustworthiness. Perhaps the worst of these attitudes is directed toward brown and black skin – people how have, for far too long, been associated with the idea of laziness, worthlessness, and violence.
In the world of The Valleys, brown is the color of honor, and purple of impending danger. So, in some small way I can help folks to think about these colors differently. This might come off “preachy” in the notes, but I hope it comes out naturally in the story itself. Thus far, I feel it has.
The purplish hue with which Jeremy envisions the Inner Valleys will soon be overwhelming Jeremy, to the point Ama will have to tutor him to filter it out completely. I like the idea of color casting as a diagnostic tool, but it also makes it way too easy for the characters to cheat their way through things.
Michael’s offense at Walter’s opening statement was, by the way, genuine. For years, Michael had held an idealized view of the Old Fox of The Ravine – seeing him displaying something as human as mistrust cracked that image a bit. It was necessary for this to happen. Meeting a hero is great for inspiring a character to take an interest in the events of the story, but you can only have relationships with people as they are – and that’s what drives a plot.
The coming trouble
Way back in the second passage of this story the guard at Water Gap said, “Far too close, they are getting bolder.” Back then, we had no idea what “they” were – no we recognize them as the Shadows. Beings which are clearly alien to human existence, as well as dangerous to be around, but not necessarily evil.
The shadows are, indeed getting bolder, and drawing further and further into The Valleys. In reality, they are being drawn to the Inner Valleys in response to the insight Jeremy shares – the trouble is coming there. The question is, “Why?”