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
After Talum purchased a second order of five prizes, the group made their way to a comfortable-looking hotel in the midst of Riverside’s bustling restaurant district. While it didn’t possess the elegance of their lodgings in Shelter, the suite Ama booked for the group was comfortable – though Walter did complain about the price.
After the events of the day, and their early start, Walter suggested the group spend the afternoon resting. Jeremy, suddenly realizing how tired he actually was, thought this was a wonderful idea. He selected a bed in the room he and Walter were sharing and collapsed into it. He was asleep in moments.
Then he dreamed.
He stood on top of a bluff, overlooking a city which was larger than he could imagine possible. Spires rose high up into the sky, almost appearing to touch the clouds above. Roads weaved their way though the buildings, eventually winding their way out from the spires and stretching out toward the horizon. He longed to go down and explore this fantastic place, and yet something about seeing it made him afraid. He thought about why such a fantastic vision should cause him to fear, but then he noticed it.
The city made no sound.
From what Jeremy knew of human settlements, one this size should have had a buzz which was near deafening. And yet, the city below him emitted no noise but the whistling of the wind. No traffic lined the streets, and no people crowded it’s sidewalks. The hum of life had left this place.
The city was a tomb.
As Jeremy examined the site more carefully, he began to notice the massive gaps in the sides of the huge spires. Windows were shattered, and birds flew in and out of the massive edifices. The streets were cracked and broken, weeds grew in the pavement and several bridges had collapsed. This city had apparently suffered a calamity, and was then abandoned.
To his left, the Sun began to set, and Jeremy noticed something which shocked him. There were no evertorches. He’d become so accustomed to them that their absence, even in this alien environment, was unsettling. As the Sun set, the city was plunged into an unfamiliar darkness, the gaps in the spires falling into the shadow of night while the open spaces beyond held on to the day for a few moments longer.
As Jeremy began to fear the encroaching darkness, a light flared next to him, and a voice spoke. It was familiar, and yet he couldn’t place where he’d heard it.
“There are no evertorches here, we left this place.”
Jeremy turned toward the indistinct light, curios, but not panicked, by it’s presence. “Who are you?”
“I am your friend, companion, and protector. I am the one who did not expect to find you, and yet is over-joyed at having done so. We thought your kind had long since left us.”
Jeremy peered into the light, generating spots in his eyes, but he couldn’t make out a shape from which the light emerged.
“We do not have forms like the one you seek Jeremy. We live in light and exist as light*.”
It was odd, but Jeremy could feel the light smile. “Yes. It is good to speak with you like this.”
“Where are we? How did I get here?”
“This, Jeremy, is the place which you must not remember. Yet it is also the place to which you must travel. As for how we got here, this is the place you go in your dreams.”
“What is it?”
“I dare not say more. Already we have stirred them, and they are searching. Find this place in your waking time, and there our motion will begin.”
“How am I supposed to travel to a place I can’t even remember? Sheilak, can’t you tell me more?”
“I cannot, we must go. You will forget, but I will guide you. Your heart will know where it is meant to go. The Old Fox and his beloved will help you, as will Talum-friend and the human guardians.”
“Wait, please! I….”
“They stir, I am sorry… you must forget.”
Jeremy awoke in a darkened room. It took a moment for him to become acclimated and remember where he was. To his right Walter snored away in his bed, lying on top of his covers much as Jermey had. Outside the door he heard voices in conversation and decided to go out and join them. Quietly lifting himself off his bed, Jeremy crossed the room and exited out into the suite’s common area. There he discovered Michael and Ama seated in two soft chairs, joined in conversation.
“I’m afraid I just don’t think it’s a very good idea.”
“I know, Healer Ama, but there’s not much we can do. Walter is correct, we owe Alec and his troop a favor, and he’s called that favor in. We must go and meet with them tonight if we want to keep their friendship.”
“And what is Merkot has spies out in the town?”
Michael shrugged. “I’m certain he does, so does Walter. But there won’t be much they can do here in Riverside, they just don’t hold sway here – these people are too independent.”
“Yes, but they can try to do something other than arrest us.”
“If someone tries that in Riverside, the warning is a lot less pleasant than being tossed off a low bridge and into a favorable current.”
“You think that will Stop Merkot from trying?”
“Well, actually, yes I do. He already knows he’s unpopular here. But what I mean is he won’t have all that many takers. Spying on your block for The Cracks is as bad a betrayal of trust as any in Riverside.”
“I still don’t like it.”
“You don’t have to, Healer Ama, but you really do need to go.”
Ama grunted annoyedly and crossed her arms. It was then she noticed Jeremy had emerged from her room.
“Ah, Jeremy! Did you rest well?”
Jeremy thought for a moment. Truth be told, he felt more anxious then when he had gone to sleep. Yet, his body felt refreshed all the same.
“For the most part. How long was I sleep for?”
“About three hours,” replied Michael. “Ama and I stayed up. I kept watch and Ama went and made us dinner reservations.”
“I was just about to come in and wake you, as a matter of fact,” added Ama.
Jeremy’s stomach grumbled at the mention of food. “Dinner sounds really good, actually. Do you want me to wake up Walter?”
“That’s all right, Jeremy, I’ll wake the Old Fox up.” With that Ama entered quietly into Jeremy’s room. After a moment she shouted, “Up you get old man!”
Walter howled with fright as Ama remained silent in the face of the old trader’s reaction.
“Ama! You could have given me a heart attack! Why do you insist on doing that?”
“Because it’s one of the few pleasures I allow myself, Old Fox. Surely you’ve figured that out after all these years.”
“Well use someone else as a foil, Ama. One of these days your surprise is going to be the death of me!”
“Oh I wouldn’t do that with anyone else, Old Fox. I reserve it for you, and you alone.”
“What have I done to be so lucky?”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
Jermey heard Walter grunt in derision. “What’s the plan for tonight?” he added.
“I’ve made dinner reservations, so you need to get ready. After that, Michael tells me you feel the need to fulfill Alec’s advise and buy he and his crew an ale.”
“Knowing them, probably more than one.” The door to Walter and Jeremy’s room opened, and the old Trader emerged from the room. Spying Jeremy he said, “So, lad, you ready for a night on the town?”