Today returns me to my non-NaNoWriMo schedule. By wonderful happenstance, however, this means I shift gears on Fiction Tuesday! If you’d like to catch up on this story, Welcome to the Valleys, the first section can be found at this link
“Well. Jeremy is… that is to say…”
Ama encouraged him. “Go ahead, Talum, Kaitlyn needs to know.”
He smiled a plea for relief and took a deep breath. “He’s a prismatic.”
Kaitlyn scowled. “No. He can’t be. The Prismatics are gone, they left us.”
Talum wilted under Kaitlyn’s gaze. Despite the tension on the setting, Jeremy found this fascinating. Typically the absent-minded healer was able to shrug off the annoyed glares and comments he received from others. Kaitlyn’s attention, however, left Talum rattled. The healer looked toward Ama in an obvious cry for assistance.
“Apparently they aren’t as gone as we believed, Senator. Jeremy seems to be one of them.”
Kaitlyn glanced at Ama as she began to barrage the healer with questions. “Who is he? What does he want? Where does he come from?”
Ama held he hand up to cut Kaitlyn off. “Senator, we don’t know where Jeremy is from, and other than his name we don’t know who he is. But I can assure you we do know what he wants.”
“And that is?”
“I’m right here.”
Ama met Jeremy’s eyes and smiled, a nod told him she approved his interruption. He didn’t mind being questioned. His powers and background were, after all, the stuff of legend in The Valleys. What he did mind was being treated as though he weren’t in the room. Jeremy felt alien enough without being ignored as others held conversations about him in his presence.
Kaitlyn slowly turned toward Jeremy, an appraising look upon her face. She met his eyes and raised her eyebrows, “What was that?”
“I said I’m right here. If you have questions to ask me, just ask me. I won’t hold anything back.”
“And how, exactly, am I supposed to trust that? I don’t know you.”
“Then trust me Kaitlyn. Or Walter. Or even Talum for that Matter.”
“Or even the two guards who have put their careers on the line to help protect him.”
Ama nodded in appreciation to Terrin. “I was just getting to that, bit. Thank you.” She turned back to Kaitlyn. “You have known me for years, Senator, have you ever known me to act against the best interest of The Valleys?”
“Have you ever known me to fabricate stories about someone under my care?”
“No.” Kaitlyn repeated.
“Then trust me now. Jeremy’s memory has been blocked by something beyond my ability to remedy. Moreover, it has been repeated to him there is danger associated with him remembering at present. He possesses a level of perception for colors I have never before seen, and he has drawn so much interest from what we’ve wrongly called ‘Shadows’ I’ve had to re-examine many things I thought I knew.”
Ama reached out and took Jeremy’s hand, the warmth of her touch calmed the tension which had risen in him, unnoticed. “Jeremy has walked out of our past, Kaitlyn. And I don’t think he would have done so without good reason.”
“Fine.” Kaitlyn brought hands together in an exaggerated motion and placed them in her lap. “Tell me then, Jeremy. Why did you, as Ama said, ‘walk out of our past?’”
“I think I’m here to save The Valleys.”
“Well, that’s nice of you.”
The crystal around Jeremy’s neck grew so cold he actually gasped. The evertorches around the room grew dark, and a voice echoed in the heads of all present.
“Kaitlyn the Just is foolish in mistrust. Jeremy is friend. Trust. Stand. Listen.”
The evertorches brightened, the room was silent and cold.
Finally Kaitlyn dared to speak, “Does it do that often?”
“She. And no, she doesn’t. I think it takes a lot of her, so Sheilak only manifests like that when she really has something she wants to say in person.”
“Tired.” Confirmed a voice in Jeremy’s head.
“It will become lest strenuous the more we become attuned to her presence. It will also effect us less. Our minds have trouble accepting their existence, you see.” Talum had brightened once more, social awareness lost in the joy of expounding some of his research.
“Now that you mention it, Talum, Sheilak’s appearances have gotten less draining the more she’s appeared to us.”
“Ah! And there you have it, Ama, confirmation on my research! The Guardians become less impactful on our minds the more we are in contact with them.” He turned to Terrin, “Even you aren’t shaking, Terrin. This is because you’ve travelled closely with Sheilak, and your unconscious mind is coming to grips with her presence!”
“Great, I think.” Replied the guard.
“It is! The more we come to appreciate and embrace the Guardians the better off we will be! There won’t be any reason to be afraid of the dark!”
“OK, forgetting Jeremy for a second.” Kaitlyn turned to Jeremy and added, “And we’re not done just yet, not by a long shot. I thought it was only Pathfinders who would speak with the Shad,” she caught herself. “Guardians.”
Talum rose from his chair and began pacing excitedly as he spoke. “That’s just it, it’s not true! Pathfinders do have a more natural affinity to take notice of a Guardian, but we’ve known for years Healers could be trained to listen as well. Most ordinary people aren’t naturally inclined to hear a Guardian’s voice, but even they will experience their presence. Their hair tends to rise on their necks, for example.”
“But Terrin is ‘ordinary,’ and he’s hearing this… Guardian… just fine.”
“Yes! Proof that anyone can learn to come to accept a Guardian’s presence and hear their voice. All they need is prolonged exposure to their presence!”
“But they live in the evertorches.”
“Yes, that’s correct. Well, their natural environment is in evercoal, but they much prefer evertorches. It’s a bit of an upgrade in quality of life, I’m told.”
“I’m happy for them. But doesn’t that mean everyone who lives in the presence of evertorches be used to them being around?”
Talum frowned. “Alas, no. There aren’t that many left, you see. Something happened, long ago, which reduced their numbers. They won’t talk about it, but I believe their numbers were greatly reduced during the Extinction War.”
“So how many are there?”
“In the Inner Valleys, maybe five dozen. In the outer settlements, I’m not sure. Maybe twice that. Beklow, he’s the head of the Guardian Council near Meadowrun by the way, says there are more of their number far away. But I don’t know much more than that.”
“Hiders,” whispered Sheilok in Jermey’s mind.
“They’re hiding? From what?”
“No, they are hiders” She reiterated.
“They’re hiding… The Valleys?”
“Yes. Silent ones.”
“They’re silent? Why?” But Sheilak didn’t respond.
“Something you’d like to share with the rest of the room, young man?”
Jeremy, upset at being caught in conversation with Sheilak once more, looked over at Senator Kaitlyn. “Sure.” He certainly intended to pass on what Sheilak said, but felt the Senator needed to work for the information. Jeremy was becoming annoyed by her tone.
“And that is?” Kailyn asked.
“Sheilak says there are more Guardians far away, like Talum said. She called them ‘hiders’.”
“Great, so our ‘guardians’ are hiding, nice.”
The crystal grew cold on Jeremy’s chest, but he ignored it. “No. That’s what I thought she meant as well, but Sheilak says they’re the ones who are working to hide something else.”
“Sheilak said these ‘silent ones’ are hiding The Valleys. They are our guardians.”
At that moment Walter burst into the room, followed closely by Michael and two Riverside Guards. Ama stood, worried expression on her face.
“Later, Meddle. Everyone up, we need to get moving, now.”