NaNoWriMo – Story Time

Throughout November I’ll be concentrating my posts on Welcome to the Valleys in honor of NaNoWriMo. If you’d like to catch up on this story, the first post of this story can be found at this link

Valleys-coverTo Jeremy’s shock, Tollen’s eyes seemed to come alive with delight.

“Oh. I suppose you’re going to be telling me about Walter’s discovery of Jeremy along The Boulevard a few miles from Water Gap?”

Walter coughed in alarm. “How in The Valleys did you hear about that?”

“I have my sources. I may be retired, but I keep my toes in the water.”

Ama reached out across the table to take Tollen’s hand. He flinched somewhat from her reach, but then relented and consented to her touch. “Tollen, please, we need to know how you found this out. There aren’t a dozen people in The Valley’s who know how Walter met Jeremy, and it’s imperative that knowledge doesn’t get out before he arrives at the Senate.”

“Relax, Ama,” said Tollen as he pulled his hand from her own. “I told you I have my sources, and they aren’t blabbing to anyone else.” He then turned to Jeremy. “You’re secret is safe with me, Son, you have my word.”

“That still doesn’t tell me what I want to know, Tollen. Who are your sources?”

Tollen smiled. “Oh just some contacts I have out past the tunnel.”

Jeremy locked his gaze on his host, a sudden realization dawning in his mind. “You’re a Seeker, aren’t you?”

Every eye at the table turned to Tollen, even Michael appeared shocked. For his part, the old man smiled back triumphantly.

Walter shook his head in disbelief. “You’re joking. You joined the Seekers?”

“Every man needs a hobby, Old Fox.”

“But… the Seekers? You used to tell anyone who listened they’re noting but a bunch of fallen branches.”

Tollen shrugged. “Yah, well, times change. Politics went sideways, the guards were co-opted for who knows what purpose, and you hightailed it out to the hinterlands to play the commoner. I needed something to keep my head on straight, and the Seekers at least didn’t pretend to have all the answers.”

“Tollen, that’s marvelous! I often thought you’d make an excellent seeker. When did you adopt their ways?”

“I’ve been friendly with them for years, but really just joined up after I retired. Most folks around these parts don’t know, the Seekers aren’t all that popular and sometimes it’s best to keep our head’s down.”

Walter was not as pleased as Ama. “I’m guessing the Water Gap council passed the message on to you. I knew we shouldn’t have trusted those over-pious zealots.”


“Well, Meddle, look what’s happened? If Tollen has gotten the news every Seeker in the Inner Valleys is going to be out keeping their eyes open for Jeremy.”

“I’m sorry, Walter,” Michael interjected, “but I don’t understand. Why would every seeker be keeping an eye out for young Jeremy?”

Walter cocked his head towards Tollen and extended his hand to him in invitation. “Being so well informed, perhaps you’d like to answer this one.”

Tollen cleared his throat, and paused for a moment in concentration. “Michael, Jeremy is from beyond the portal.”

Michael’s eyes opened in amazement as he turned his gaze upon the youth, a look which discomforted Jeremy greatly. Finally, Michael’s gaze softened as he breathed out, “It’s all true.”

“There! You see, Meddle, Jeremy’s story’s been broadcast to every Seeker in the Inner Valleys! We’ll be lucky if they don’t have a parade for the lad as we enter The Ravine!”

“I assure you, Walter, I am the only Seeker in the Inner Valleys who knows Jeremy’s background.”

“And why should I believe that, Tollen?”

“Because Tollen isn’t just a member of the Seekers, he leads us. And he has not passed word on, or I would have known about Jeremy.”

Walter gaped at Michael, “You too? Has everyone in the Inner Valleys dropped their leaves?”

Ama, however, paid no attention to Michael’s confession. Instead, she pressed Tollen. “You lead the Seekers here in the Inner Valleys?”

“I do.”

“Unbelievable.” Walter crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, splitting his gaze between Michael and their host.

“‘Unbelievable or not, Walter, it is the truth. And, Seeker I may be, I’m also a guard and I know the power of discretion. The Water Gap council asked me for advice, and I have kept my counsel and told them to keep their mouths shut. Chances are Merkot already knows about your evercoal, the last thing I want is for him to find out about Jeremy before the boy is ready to present himself to the Senate.”

“OK, fine, you’re the very image of discretion.”

“Thank you, Old Fox. But this still doesn’t address the shadow in the room. How in The Valleys did you manager to pick up a Shadestalker?”

At the use of the word, the light in the evertorch dimmed considerably as the warmth was again pulled from the room.

Name of forgetters!”

Tollen appeared afraid to move. It was Jeremy who reached out to the old man after a several heartbeats.

“He doesn’t like that name.”

“Yes. I see that.”

Michael pushed his chair back away from the table. “Perhaps it’s best if we didn’t discuss matters in front of the creature.”

The shadow in the evertorch appeared agitated, causing Michael to pull back from the Table a bit further.

“Believe me, Michael, we’ve tried. Our friend here just manages to keep on tagging along. It’s taken an interest in the boy.”

“Yes, Fox, but it mentioned you.”

Walter stroked his chin. “Yes, I’ll admit that is a watermelon.”

Tollen leaned in on the table, eyes fixed on Jeremy. “When did you first notice the… well, let’s just call it your ‘traveling companion?’”

“He doesn’t seem to mind ‘shadow’ so we’ve been calling him that.”

Tollen smiled gently. “Alright, then. When did you first notice this shadow?”

“It was that first day we travelled in the tunnel.”

“You saw it following?”

Jeremy shook his head. “No, not exactly.”

“What do you mean?”

Jeremy shuddered as he recalled his first encounter with the shadows. Ama reached out and placed her hand over his own, calming him somewhat. He found his throat was suddenly dry, and when he tried to continue he found himself coughing. Mercifully, the healer continued for him.

“It wasn’t just this one shadow following, Tollen. We were surrounded by them.”

“Surrounded by shadows? In the tunnel, but there are evertorches filling that place!”

Walter shook his head in silence. Tollen noticed the color draining from his old companion’s face. “It didn’t matter. The lad looked back and saw darkness behind us as we drew near to Shelter. We sped our way to the town, hoping to outrun what was coming behind us. And that’s when it happened.”

“What happened?”

Jeremy found his voice. “We found the shadows had formed darkness in front of us, as well as behind. They closed in around us and everything became dark, and cold.”

“And did they speak?”

Jeremy nodded.

Tollen turned to Walter. “What did they say?”

Walter shook his head. “Tollen, I didn’t hear them. They spoke only to Jeremy.”

You didn’t hear them? How can that be?”

“I don’t know, but that’s not the most troubling part of our encounter.” Walter made a gesture for Jeremy to continue the tale. “Tell Tollen what you were asked, Jeremy.”

The young man swallowed. “They asked me why I had broken the window and come here.”

“And I’m guessing that’s not all?”

“No, sir. They also asked me if the treaty had been broken.”

“And what did you say?”

“I don’t know why I said it, but I told them it was and they needed to get ready.”

An unsettling quiet fell over the table, broken only by the tapping of a spoon which Tollen had picked up and was absent-mindedly rapping on the table. The light of the evertorch shimmered as the shadow danced in it’s depth, and all eyes were fixed upon it. Finally, Tollen dropped the spoon with a clatter and clapped his hands together. Jolted back into the present, the companions lifted their eyes to him.

“Well, that makes one thing clear.”

“Well I’m glad we could give you some clarity, Tollen. Would you mind sharing it with the rest of the room?”

Tollen turned to Walter and grinned sardonically. “What’s clear is that Michael is right. Senator Walter is going to be accompanying this boy to Meadowrun. Talum has got to hear about this and nothing, not even old wounded pride, can get in the way of that.”

Walter grimaced at his host, who only smiled more wickedly down at him. “Welcome back, Old Fox. We’ve missed you.”

One thought

Comments are closed.