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
Ama hurried around the suite of rooms, making sure everyone was ready in time to head out for their reservation. This included telling a recalcitrant Talum that he had no time to bathe and put on fresh clothes before they headed out.
“I can just show up later, it’s no problem,” the healer complained.
“We are all going together Talum. We’ve done well in Riverside thus far, but we have no idea what Merkot might have in mind for us if he gets the opportunity. Now, get moving or I’ll have Michael carry you to dinner in your bathing robe.”
Ama pointed forcibly towards Talum’s room, and he turned back to get dressed. He returned a few minutes later, and pointedly ignored Ama as the party exited their rooms. They left the hotel lobby and turned right, heading deeper into the Restaurant district.
“Where did you make the reservation, Meddle?”
“I asked the desk, they suggested a small restaurant just down the street I’d never heard of – ‘Rosso’s.’”
“Rosso’s? Well, I suppose I’ll have to forgive you for denying me my bath, Ama. Their bread is always best fresh.”
“I’m glad you approve, Talum,” replied Ama sardonically.
She led the group about three blocks down, and then turned left on to a narrow side-street. Soon they spied a well-lit storefront bearing a marquee which read, “Rosso’s.” There was a line out in front of the restaurant, and several people were noticeably annoyed when Ama announced her reservation and was immediately led to a table. Soon, a kindly-looking woman approached the group.
“Welcome to Rosso’s, my name is Clauda and it is my pleasure to serve you this evening.”
Ama spoke for the group. “Thank you, we are looking forward to a wonderful meal.”
The woman smiled. “Well, Healer Talum has been here before.” She then pointed at Terrin, “And I think I recognize you also.”
Terrin nodded. “Probably, I’ve been here a few times.”
“Very good, you know how things work. With the Healer of Meadowrun here, however, I’ll begin bringing out rolls as soon as I get your drink order. What can I get you all?”
Walter opened his mouth to speak, but Ama cut him off. “I think just waters for the table, please, Clauda.”
Clauda shrugged. “As you wish, be right back with your rolls.”
Michael looked around the table. “I don’t see any menus.”
Terrin and Talum smiled conspiratorially. “Oh, there are no menus here,” interjected Terrin. “Our host will bring us out items she believes we will enjoy.”
“And if we don’t?” Walter didn’t appeared to enthralled by the idea of having someone else choose his food.
“Walter, I cannot imagine you not liking a dish selected by a Rosso’s host,” replied Talum. “These people have a true gift.”
“We’ll see,” Walter grumped.
As it turned out, he had very little about which to be concerned. Shortly after their host brought them tall glasses of cold water she retuned with a basket of rolls and a thin round pie, covered in a form of red gravy and melted cheese. She placed it down in the middle of the table and winked at Jeremy. He picked a slice and took a bite, nearly burning the roof of his mouth with the melted cheese in the process. The sauce was sweet and zesty, and melded well with the thin crust and melted cheese. This was followed by a course of salad, and then a chicken dish Jeremy didn’t recognize, though he found it all delicious.
During their dessert, consisting of a small dish of ice cream, the relaxing evening became suddenly tense. A hooded figure approached their table and addressed Walter.
“Do you have room for a weary traveller to join you this evening friends?”
Michael and Terrin appeared tense, ready to defend the table if the stranger happened to be one of Merkot’s guards. Ama and Walter, on the other hand, smiled almost as soon as the figures spoke.
“Kaitlyn!” Exclaimed Ama.
“I’d appreciate a little less volume, Healer Ama, though seriously doubt Merkot doesn’t already know where I am.”
“What are you doing here, senator?”
The hooded figure threw back her cloak, revealing a dark-haired woman with deep blue eyes. She regarded Walter critically for a moment, and then pulled up a chair to the table and sat down.
“Still as forward as ever, Old Fox.”
“And you still haven’t answered the question.”
“I’m looking for you, of course. Merkot is livid that you keep slipping through is fingers.”
“He’s trying to keeping me from The Ravine, but he won’t succeed.”
Kaitlyn shook her head. “That’s just it, Old Fox. Merkot didn’t care at all if you got to The Ravine. It was Meadowrun he wanted you no where near.”
“Yah, I got that impression. But what’s he doing in Meadowrun that he doesn’t want me finding.”
“We don’t know, but after you passed through the town several of my sources in Guard Command told me you were to be apprehended and taken back there to be questioned.”
“I wonder if he’s afraid you’ll discover his dig by the Satchwin Crevasse.”
All eyes at the table turned to face Talum.
Walter clenched his teeth, “Would you mind saying that again, please?”
“Senator Merkot sponsored a dig out by Satchwin Crevasse about six months or so ago. I wasn’t supposed to know about it, of course, but Beklow was quite alarmed by the work.”
Talum smiled and opened his mouth to respond, butWalter held up a hand to cut him off. “Never mind that right now, Kaitlyn. Talum, if you knew Merkot was digging around near Satchwin’s why didn’t you let anyone know?”
The smile faded from Talum’s face and was replaced by a look of puzzled reflection. “I’m sure I did. I know I wrote the report to the Um healers in The Ravine. And then I didn’t see it anymore so I though it must have been sent.” His face brightened once more. “My research is very time-consuming, you know.”
Walter returned to rubbing his temples in frustration as Kaitlyn looked at the healer in disbelief. Ama, Michael, and Terrin exchanged a worried look in silence. Jeremy couldn’t understand what it was about this “Satchwin” place which was making everyone uneasy.
“Danger,” spoke Sheilak in Jeremy’s mind.
Jeremy was beginning to grow accustomed to speaking thoughts with the Guardian. “There’s danger there?”
“Yes. Deep. Buried long ago.”
“The last. Guardians cannot approach. Buried deep.”
“What’s ‘the last,’ Sheilak?” But the guardian didn’t respond. Jeremy returned to the conversation around the table as Michael was speaking.
“If Merkot is digging at Satchwin Crevasse then he must be stopped. Not even the Seekers would attempt such a thing.”
Jeremy thought of the lush fields and well-tended orchards which made up the bulk of the Inner Valleys. The idea that something dangerous could be found in the well-cultivated land, other than the people themselves, seemed preposterous. “But what’s out there that’s so dangerous?”
Heads turned back to Jeremy. It was Ama who answered his question. “Buried deep within the Crevasse is said to be an artifact from the Extinction War.”
Jeremy leaned in, fascinated. “What is it?”
“If the stories are correct, lad,” Walter continued. “Buried deep in the Crevasse is a Portal.”
“But I thought they were all closed.”
“Oh not this one,” said Talum brightly. “This particular Portal was supposedly sent here from elsewhere. It’s not natural to The Valleys and so was immune to the powers of the Pathfinders when they attempted to close it. I’m not certain the stories are true, but Beklow and the Guardians are quite frightened of the Crevasse. So I’d say it is more likely than not.”
The table sat in silence for a moment, staring incredulously at Talum as he chewed on a bit of bread. Noticing the attention, he added, “It’s quite fascinating, don’t you think?”