NaNoWriMo – Shadow Flare

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

Welcome to the Valleys CoverThe mounted guards quickly closed the distance between themselves and Jeremy’s friends. They raised their hands in salute as they stopped just before them, blocking the road.

“I’m sorry, Senator, all traffic into Meadowrun is being stopped. You’ll have to turn around.”

Walter crossed his arms and examined the guard who spoke. Jeremy couldn’t tell what build the man would have had, had he been on foot, but he was certainly an imposing figure while mounted on a horse. His face betrayed a sense of annoyance, as if he had been given an unpleasant duty which he felt was beneath him.

“Oh is that so? Well as it turns out I have pressing business in Meadowrun and I’m going to complete my journey, thank you very much. Now…” Walter inspected the insignia on the guard’s sleeve. “…Sergeant. I’d advise you to step aside and allow us to proceed or, better yet, fall in line and escort us into town. It’s only a few miles, and I’d like to get there before dusk sets in.”

The guard tightened his grip on his reins. “I’m sorry, Senator, but there is no traffic being permitted into Meadowrun. This road is closed.”

Michael stepped forward. “For what purpose? I’ve seen nothing along the road which would lead to it’s closure!”

“Well, captain, ever since the Senator decided to dismantle our checkpoint there have been several non-person raids along First Run. We’re closing the road until we drive them back into the fringes.”

Walter smiled. “So it’s closed to all traffic?”

“That is correct, sir. Yes.”

His grin became wider. “Then why weren’t to two parties I watched you pass by turned around as well?”

The second guard fidgeted nervously in his saddle, but the sergeant cracked the faintest trace of a smile.

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Oh, you know, those things walking around on two feet and leading a some wagons. Most of us call them people. But, as you were busy riding by them on your horses, I can see why you might not have noticed them.”

“Really? Well, we’ll have to go turn them around.” His grin widened, and the guards eyes filled with scorn.

“This is intolerable! I do not know where you received your orders, sergeant, but when I get back to command I’ll see you reprimanded. How dare you use such flimsy pretense to block senator from his rounds!”

“Flimsy pretense? My orders come from Senator Merkot himself. This road is to remain closed.”

“Well upon my orders, as senator and the senior authority present, I’m telling you to open the blasted road! I don’t have time for this!”

“Sergeant, maybe we should…”

“That’s enough, patroller. We have been given orders and we will follow them. Senator, turn around. Now.”

Walter took a step forward, and Michael stepped into line beside him. “Nope, I don’t think so. I told you I’m going to Meadowrun, and that’s where I’m heading.”

The first guard drew a wicked looking wooden cane from his saddle sheaf. His partner followed suit – though his eyes conveyed a sense of apology in Walter’s direction.

“Senator, if you take another step I will be forced to arrest you.”

Jeremy was surprised to see Walter’s grin again. “Great. And your bunk is in Meadowrun I take it? I’ll make you a deal. You arrest us and bring us to your bunk. That way you get to say you followed orders and closed the road, and when we get there I promise not to strip you of your rank and privileges for having the audacity to obstruct a senator. How does that sound?”

No traffic gets through, Senator.”

“By which you mean, my traffic, I’m sure.”

The guard ignored this interruption and continued. “If we arrest you, you will be marched back to the tunnel entrance. Where you will be held until a circuit judge rules on your case. Should that happen it is very likely you will all be exiled from the Inner Valleys. We do not tolerate disorder here any more, Senator. The days of flaunting your office in an effort disrupt our society are not going to return.”

“How dare you speak to a senator that way! How dare you speak to anyone that way! I am ashamed to share a uniform with the likes of you.”

The first guard broke into a sneer. “Then by all means remove yours captain, I’m sure no one would miss your contributions to the guard force.” He turned to Walter. “One last chance, Senator, will you turn around?”

Walter again crossed his arms. “I will not comply with an illegal order.”

“Very well, then. By the authority of the Senate and the municipality of Meadowrun I do place you under arrest. Patroller, take them into custody.

The second guard sighed apologetically, but dismounted his horse and brought out a braid of rope, which Jeremy assumed would be used to restrain them. Michael stepped in front of Walter and unsheathed his own cane, blocking the guard’s approach.

“I will not allow this to happen.”

The sergeant laughed. “Captain, you may be able to fight off the two of us, but I’ve got a squad of twenty coming up the road, they’re probably just beyond the next ridge by this point. I doubt you’ll fight all them off. Now stand down and you just might be able to retire with honor. But once command hears of your actions your career in the guards will be over. I hope you feel it was well spent on this lost cause.”

Walter placed his hands on Michael’s arm, gently forcing him to lower his cane. “It’s all right, Michael. Stand down. I’m not attacking guards, even ones as poor as these two. Let them have their fun for now.” He then turned to the mounted sergeant. “But know this, friend. I’m putting your boss, as well as all your compatriots, on notice. I’ll not abide this type of behavior anywhere in The Valleys.”

“Spoken like the legend you are. Patroller, take them into custody. Now.”

The second guard stepped forward with his rope as Walter defiantly raised his hands to a position which would make them easy to bind. Ama, who had watched in silent shock as the scene unfolded, had tears running down her cheeks. Michael crossed his hands behind it back and glared at the approaching guard, who cowered a bit but continued forward.

Then, suddenly, the scene changed. The bright afternoon Sun grew dim, and the evertorches which lined the road in their immediate vicinity became black as night. The unmounted horse of second guard panicked and bolted up the road past Jeremy, who feebly attempted to grab it reins as it passed. The sergeant’s horse rose up in panic, and it’s rider suddenly found himself worried about little else but remaining on his mount. As the darkness fell a shout filled the minds of all those present.

Unacceptable! The Old Fox is summoned, the treaty is broken!

With this shout, the sergeant’s horse reared up once more, and the guard was unable to hold on. He went down with an audible crack and a cry of pain as his horse bolted out of sight into a nearby field. Jeremy grabbed of their packhorses reigns, coming to the aid of Walter who was having difficulty calming the animals. Soon the light returned and Ama’s touch was able to calm the beasts. As Walter moved toward the sergeant, the healer approached the second guard. He was now cowering on the road’s surface a sobbing gently. At her touch, the sobbing ceased and he rolled fully to the ground – asleep. She then joined Walter, where the sergeant was moaning with both pain and anger. She kneeled by his side and moved to touch the guard’s leg. At first he tried to yank it from Ama’s grasp, but Walter gripped the man’s shoulder and forced him to remain still.

“Let her do her work, man. Don’t add stupidity to your lack of wisdom.”

Ama placed her hands on the man’s leg and closed her eyes in concentration. The man shuddered slightly, but after a moment he went still. Opening her eyes, Ama looked up at Walter. “It’s broken, probably in two places as far as I can tell. We’ll set it in a splint here, but we’ll need to get him to Talum’s practice to bring it to full healing.”

Walter grinned brightly down at the fallen guard. “You see, Sergeant, I told you we were going to Meadowrun today.”

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