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
“Kaitlyn, sit down. It’s ok,” soothed Walter.
She shook her head, leaned in toward Walter, and whispered, “How can you say that? I grew up living in fear of those…things. And now you’re expecting me to believe they’re really our friends?”
Walter reached out and touched Kaitlyn’s hand. “Senator, sit down, you’re drawing attention.”
She glared at Walter for a moment, but finally shrugged and sat back down at the table. “I just can’t believe this. If you’re in league with monsters then maybe Merkot is right and you should be stopped.”
Jeremy felt his crystal grow painfully cold. Recognizing the warning he quickly thought, “Not now, please. You’ll draw too much attention.”
In his mind Jeremy could feel Sheilak pulling herself back from speaking to all present. “Kaitlyn The Just, misguided. The treaty is broken.”
“I understand, you can talk to her later.”
“Kaitlyn should friend, not enemy.”
Jeremy was about to respond when Ama broke his concentration. “Does Sheilak want to say something, Jeremy?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but Kaitlyn cut him off. “Are you telling me this boy holds conversations with the Shade….”
“Ah-ah, ‘Guardians,’” interjected Talum.
She shot a glance at Talum and sighed. “Whatever they are,” she pointed at Jeremy, “He has conversations with them?”
“Oh, just the one. I gave him an evertorch fragment in which Sheilak, that’s the Guardian who has taken a liking to Jeremy, can travel.”
“A fragment of an evertorch. The Guardians live in the evertorches, or hadn’t we told you that yet?”
Kaitlyn slumped back in her chair. “I think I’m going to need something a little stronger than water.”
Walter grinned. “Oh we’re just getting started. You can order your wine later.”
“Oh yes. But first,” Walter turned to Jeremy. “Why don’t you tell Senator Kaitlyn what Sheilak wants to say. It’s probably best if she didn’t speak herself right now.”
Jeremey nodded. “Sheilak wants you to know that Merkot is the problem, not us. She is trying to help because a treaty has been broken.”
Kaitlyn’s face drained of color. “The Extinction War treaty has been broken?” She turned to Walter, who nodded gravely. “They why aren’t we all dead?”
“We hide, we protect,” echoed Sheilak’s voice in Jeremy’s head.
“Sheilak says her people are hiding us somehow. They’re protecting us from the treaty violation.”
“But the treaty is with them. Why would they protect us from it’s consequences?”
I think you’ll find, Senator, cut in Michael, “That what we thought about the treaty isn’t entirely accurate.”
Kaitlyn threw up a hand in frustration. “Fine. And what else did your… friend… say to you, child?”
Kaitlyn’s use of “child” stung Jeremy slightly, but he recovered enough to respond. “She called you ‘Kaitlyn the Just,’ and she wants you to be our friend.”
Before Kaitlyn could respond, Walter stood up. “I think that’s about enough for now. I know Alec is looking forward to me buying him several rounds, but there’s more you need to hear and I’d rather not do it out in public like this.”
The others nodded and stood, Walter waved them out. “I’ll stay here and pay the bill with Michael, then we’ll head over to see Alec and make his crew happy. You lot all head back to our rooms and finish the story for Kaitlyn.”
Ama was not pleased. “Walter, I don’t want us to split up.”
“It’ll be fine Ama. I trust Michael, and I’m willing to wager several rounds that Alec’s had several people following us ever since the bridge. You go on, we’ll see you soon.”
They held each other’s gaze for several heartbeats until Ama finally nodded and turned away. “Let’s be off then, we don’t want to keep the Old Fox from his friends.” Her tone was airy, but Jeremy had become attuned enough to her moods to recognize how concerned she actually was. He wanted to say something to comfort her, but he wasn’t sure what he could do.
They walked back to their rooms in relative silence, eyes open to what was going on around them. The streets had grown more crowded, and the noise level increased, as the Sun had set. The first round of diners was now pouring out of the various restaurants and cafes which made up the district, which made it difficult to move.
Ama took Jeremy’s hand. “Stay near me, Jeremy. I don’t want you getting separated.”
He nodded in thanks and continued. As they moved through the crowded streets, Jeremy noticed something interesting. Most people were jostled and bumped by the crowd of bodies flooding the area, but Ama seemed to be given room in which to maneuver. He wondered at this until he spied a reveler’s eyes fall upon Ama and Talum’s clothing, and immediately back away to allow them to pass. The robes of a healer, it seemed, brought with them a certain deference from others.
They reached their hotel and made their way up to their rooms, where the suddenly weary group collapsed into chairs.
“I do not remember the restaurant district being that crowded the last time I was here,” muttered Terrin.”
“Yes, it has grown quite popular over the last year or so. People from The Ravine come here to gain some distance from the Senate and enjoy themselves. Of course, it helps that crop output has increased several times over the last few years which allowed prices to be lowered. I did so enjoy that study. Did you know that…”
“Talum,” cut in Kaitlyn.
“Please stop, right now. I don’t care.”
Talum face became a pout, but he refrained from speaking.
“Great. Now, what else do you have to tell me that you couldn’t say out in public?”
“Well,” said Ama. “It has to do with Jeremy.”
“Yes, I figured mystery boy was at the center of this somehow. What about him? He’s a previously unidentified pathfinder with memory issues, that much I know.”
“Yes that is true. He also sees the colors.”
She quickly turned to Jeremy. “Is this true?”
“Yes, I didn’t know what it was at first, but it’s gotten stronger the longer I’ve stayed in the Inner Valleys.”
“What’s gotten stronger?”
“Purple. I see purple everywhere.”
Kaitlyn stared at him for a moment and the room became still. She finally managed to breath out, “The color of war. So it’s come to that, then.”
“No!” Jeremy stood up with the shout, and Kaitlyn’s face hardened. Sitting back down, he softened his tone. “That is, I don’t think so. At least, not the way you’re thinking. Someone does want there to be war between the Inner Valleys and the outer settlements, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I think I’m partly here in order to prevent that from happening.”
“You’re here to prevent a war? And, given your memory issues, what makes you say that? I know being a pathfinder-healer can be a heady position, but there are cultural forces at play here which you cannot possibly understand.”
“I’m sorry, Senator,” Jeremy apologized. “But I don’t think you really understand.”
“And who are you to tell me that?” The Senator barked. “I’ve served my whole life for the betterment of the people’s of The Valleys, all The Valleys. You don’t even know who you are, but you’re telling me I don’t understand what’s going on here? What makes you think you have the right to say such a thing?”
“Oh, he’s a Prismatic.” Kaitlyn turned her eyes on to Talum, who recoiled from her gaze. “Or hadn’t we gotten to that bit yet?”