NaNoWriMo – A shadow’s touch

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-coverJeremy woke the next morning feeling drained. His night shirt was uncomfortably damp, and his skin felt crusted with dried sweat. After climbing out of bed he used the wash basin to bathe and looked around for his travel clothes. The outfit he had unceremoniously dropped on the floor as he headed to bed the night before was gone, in it’s place was a new set of travel clothes which contained more ostentatious embroidery than his previous set. A dark blue shirt and soft leather pants were folded over a chair. His boots, however, remained.

Jeremy dressed silence, and then glanced in a mirror. For the first time he noticed the gold-threaded embroidery on his left sleeve, up near the shoulder, was not random decoration. Several triangles were arranged to create an image. Two open triangles pointed upward, and two smaller triangles were filled in and pointed downward underneath these. A large open triangle reached across the image, pointed downward, and the tip of this shape was filled in. As Jeremy glanced at it he thought it looked a bit like a fox. Once dressed he made his way downstairs, where he discovered his companions already seated about Tollen’s table.

“I see what you mean, Ama, the boy does enjoy his sleep. Come in, Jeremy, and get some food. You’ve got a journey ahead of you today.”

Jeremy nodded and entered the room, where he discovered a table laden with fruit, brown bread, and butter. As he began to select food for his plate Ama peered at him with concern.

“Jeremy, you don’t look well. Are you feeling all right?”

He shrugged. “I’m just tired, Ama. I didn’t sleep well. I must have been fighting something because I woke up feeling like I’d spending the night sweating.”

“Bad dreams, lad?”

“I… I don’t really know, Walter. I just woke up feeling drained.”

Ama’s concern deepened. “Jeremy, come here.”

He set down his plate regretfully, his stomach growling in protest, and stepped over to Ama. She stood and placed her hand against his forehead, expecting to feel Ama’s calming sensation passing through his body. Instead, her hand became warm and heat radiated down from his head throughout his body. The sensation wasn’t painful, but it was uncomfortable. As it subsided a single point of cold emerged around his temple. It faded quickly as Ama removed her hand from his forehead.

“Your memory has suffered another trauma.”

Walter dropped his fork with a flourish and stood up. “What?”

Ama continued to stare into Jeremy’s eyes, but answered Walter. “His memory has been suppressed again. Though from a different source than previously.”

Jeremy stepped away from Ama. “What do you mean, ‘a different source than previously?’”

“I’m sure you felt the spot of cold as I pulled my hand from your forehead, am I right?”

Jeremy nodded. “Yes, near my right temple, why?”

“The boy knows when a healer is working on him?”

Ama held her hand up for quiet. “Just a moment, Tollen, please. That spot, Jeremy, is the point from which whatever impacted your memory made contact. It’s something I’ve seen before.”

Jeremy grew excited. “You have? When?”

“I’ve seen them on the bodies of those who don’t live through their attempts at chasing the dark. They are marks left behind when a shadow touches someone.”

“A shadow? You mean, our shadow? But why?”

Walters voice was not kind. “You heard him, shadow. Tell the lad why you did this. In fact, tell us all.”

The room grew noticeably darker as the evertorch dimmed. The temperature dropped, and those seated at the table felt the voice speak. “Protect. He must not remember.

Ama responded. “You’ve said that to him before. Why can’t he remember?”


Walter slammed his fist on the table. “That’s not good enough! Can’t you see whatever you’re doing to the boy is making him sick?”

The evertorch flared darkness. “No. Protect.

“Protect from what?”

He must not remember.

“Why?” Walter all but shouted. But it was too late, the evertorch had returned to his typical honey-hued glow and the temperature rose in the room once more. Walter tossed something on the table in frustration. “Well, that was helpful.”

“Why is the shadow so concerned with me remembering? What did he do to me?”

Ama laid her hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, he relaxed as her calm washed over him. “Nothing harmful, Jeremy, I believe. The shadow seems to think it is protecting you from something.”

“But what?”

“Well, son,” remarked Tollen as he sipped from a steaming mug. “It might be the same thing every living soul in The Valleys is frightened of.”

“Which is?”

“The truth.” Walter blew a dismissive raspberry, but Tollen was not dissuaded. “Scoff all you want Walter, but you’ve seen the pillars. You know our secret as well as anybody.”

“Yah, and what good has that done me? Mysterious pasts aren’t going to get us out of the mess we’ve created.”

“Mysterious pasts have a way of rising from the past, Walter, as I’ve told you many times.”

“And it appears our ‘mysterious past’ is rising up right in front of you, Fox. It’s time you faced it. The past is coming for us.”

Walter sat back down in his seat with a shrug. As the old trader took an overly casual sip of from his mug Jeremy turned to Tollen. “I don’t understand. Why would everyone in The Valleys be frightened of the truth?”

Walter set his cup down on the table with a clap, drawing Jeremy’s attention. “Because, Jeremy, as the Seekers will tell you, the truth of our past is the one thing which is denied to us in The Valleys. We don’t know, really, who we are. All we have a muddled stories of a long-ago war, a fear of the night, and legends of abilities which sound too fantastic to possibly be true. But we don’t know anything. With the exception of vague wonders like the Pillars of the Valleys, it’s like everything from the Extinction War and before has just been… erased.”

“Erased? You mean like me?”

Walter shook his head. “Lad, I don’t know. Ever since showed up alongside the road it’s like you’re stirring up echoes of the time we forgot. You can make the stones glow, but you also see colors like a healer. All around you the shadows are moving, and you keep bringing up that blasted treaty.”

“That’s right, Fox, and you still say it’s not all true?”

Jeremy cut off Walter’s response. “What’s true, Tollen?”

“The people of The Valleys believe our past was denied us for a purpose.” This voice came from Tollen, but from the doorway, which now framed Michael. “We seekers believe we traded our past so we might have a future. The memory of times past is considered toxic by most. Most believe that any signal from the past is a sign of doom.”

“But you seekers are looking for the past.”

“Yes, lad, and that’s why people don’t like them all that much. If you think remembering will bring doom, you’re not likely to be fond of the people who are going around trying to make it fall.”

“And that’s where the ignorance of the many fails us.” Tollen broke in. “Son, we Seekers believe the past is dangerous. The same as everyone else. But we also know a people who have no past can’t really have a future. We believe we must face the danger of our past, or we risk falling into stagnation and ruin.”

“But what if I’m walking around with memories which will bring an end to all the people of The Valleys? I could give the Seekers their greatest wish, and end everything!”

“Jeremy, we asked you why you thought you had come back when we were in Shelter. What did you tell us?”

Jeremy paused. “I said I was here to save The Valleys.”

Ama nodded. “Yes, you did. Now, for whatever reason our… friend… believes there is danger if you remember your past.”

The evertorch swirled, and the shadow spoke. “Yes. Danger. Must not remember.

Jeremy slumped into a chair. “Then I’m always going to wandering through the world with no idea where I come from?” He covered his face in his hands. “Ama, I just don’t think I can do that. I’ve got all these abilities, and I was sent here for some reason, but what good is all that if I can’t remember?”

“It’s alright, lad. I’m sure one day you’ll remember everything. Until then, we’ll help you muddle through as best we can.”

“I agree, Jeremy” said Ama as she placed her hand on Jermey’s shoulder. “I believe, one day, the purpose for which you were sent to The Valleys will require you to remember. And, on that day, you will.”

Jeremy looked up into the healer’s eyes. “You think?”

“I do.”

Yes. The day is coming. Soon. The treaty is broken.

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