Fiction Tuesday joins a story already in progress. If you’d like to catch up on Welcome to the Valleys, the first section can be found at this link
Ama turned to the party, “Do as he says. Go and grab your packs.” Everyone but Kaitlyn stood up and followed her instruction. Michal stepped past Walter and bowed stiffly to Ama. “With your permission, Ama, I will retrieve your pack for you.”
“That is acceptable, Captain, thank you.”
Walter then barked in Jeremy’s direction, “Get my pack for me, Lad. And make sure not to leave anything behind!”
“I’ll get it Walter!” Jeremy cried back from the room they shared.
As the party scattered to retrieve their belongings, Kaitlyn strode over toward Walter. “Well? What is it?” she asked bluntly.
“It could be a lot better, but then it could be worse.”
“So Merkot’s pet guards haven’t yet crossed the bridge?”
Walter shook his head. “No, but it was an incredibly close thing. If the head of that squad hadn’t listened to the head of Riverside’s council things would have gotten very explosive. As it is, the guard in charge of the bridge nearly tossed two officers over the side in frustration.”
“So what happened, Walter?” Ama cut in.
“Merkot’s guards agreed to wait until the Riverside council approves their cross jurisdictional movement. Like I said, it was a close thing. The Meadowrun troop is so spread out at this point, though, they really want to avoid a direct confrontation.”
“So they’re blocked, Old Fox. Why the dramatics?” Ama shot Kaitlyn a brief glare, clearly less than enthusiastic for the senator’s tone.
“Because, Kaitlyn, Merkot might be blocked at the bridge, but Alec’s pretty sure he’s got agents in the field. Also, when Merkot figures out his troop has been blocked by a legal loophole he will not be happy. We have to reach The Ravine before he decides to risk blocking Second Run.”
“Surely he’s not that desperate, Walter. He’ll have spies certainly, but blocking the road? Merkot’s not popular as it is.”
“That’s just it, Kaitlyn. I believe he is that desperate. He did not want us in Meadowrun, and now that we’ve been there he doesn’t want us to reach The Ravine. At least until he has a chance to find out what we know – and that’s very little.”
Ama heard the frustration in Walter’s voice and laid a hand on his shoulder. “I know you want to discover what he’s really up to, Walter. Right now, however, I’m more concerned that Merkot will discover Jeremy’s full origins before we have a chance to bring him before the Senate.”
Walter nodded. “Agreed. Merkot cannot be allowed to take Jeremy.”
“Speaking of Jeremy, Fox. I’m not too thrilled with the company he keeps.”
“Kaitlyn, I’m not that bad.”
“I’m not talking about you, Fox.”
Walter caught Ama’s eyes. “You told her everything?”
“I saw no reason not to tell her. She’d have found out when we got to The Ravine, at any rate.”
“At which point I might have put him under arrest. I don’t like the Shade Stalkers, Walter.”
“I know you have old prejudices, Kaitlyn, but if what Talum and Jeremy says is true the Guardians aren’t our enemies.”
“I still have yet to be convinced.” Seeing Ama opening her mouth in retort the senator added, “But I’m will to suspend judgment because I trust Ama’s judgement.”
“And mine, Kaitlyn?”
Kaitlyn shrugged. “Look, Walter, I’ve never much liked you. Truth be told, I’m still waiting for the pampered Inner Valley snob to peak out from your ‘everyman’ veneer. But, even I have to admit I’ve never seen you do anything which put the peoples of The Valleys at risk.”
“I’m not looking for a fan, Kaitlyn, just an ally to keep The Valleys free.”
“I guess you’ll have to settle for me then, Old Fox.”
“That’s fine with me, Senator. Because I trust you, no matter what you think of me personally. I know you’ll never do anything to endanger The Valleys.”
“Well, now that you two have renewed your mutual dislike, what is the plan Walter?”
Walter pointed to one of the Riverside guards, which had remained at attention by the door. “John will be taking Senator Kaitlyn to a an awaiting coach. The Riverside guards will then convey her to The Ravine with speed.” Walter waved the guard forward and he bowed to Senator Kaitlyn.
“I’m at your commanded, Senator. Are you ready?”
Kaitlyn looked Walter in the eye for a moment as the two seemed to come to an unspoken understanding. Finally, she nodded. “I am.” She held out a hand to Walter, who grasped it. “See you in The Ravine, Fox.” Turning to Ama she bowed. “Healer, as ever, I will be honored to have you call on me when you reach The Ravine.”
Ama returned the gesture and smiled, “We’ll see you soon Kaitlyn.”
With that the Senator exited their rooms, just as their companions were emerging with their packs.
“Where’s Senator Kaitlyn?” asked Terrin as he emerged.
“She’s going on ahead. Alec wants to get her to The Ravine as fast as he can, and doesn’t want us to make a noticeable exit from town.”
“So what’s the plan for us?”
“Steve, here, will be taking us to join up with our animals. Then we’re going to be making our way to The Ravine tonight.”
“Is Alec sending guards along with us?”
“No,” interjected Micahel. “He feels, and I agree, that a visible guard would be too noticeable. He’s sent out road patrols who will keep the path clear us for us, though. I doubt we’ll be surprised.”
Walter motioned everyone to the door, and they exited in silence. As they left the hotel, Jeremy noticed several men watching them from across the street. As they turned left and headed out into the evertorch illuminated darkness the group began to move along with them. The falling rain formed an eerie mist in the golden light, and the sign of pursuers caused him to tense up.
“Relax, Jeremy,” Michael whispered behind him. “Those are some of Alec’s men, they’re following us to make sure we exit the town unmolested.”
He turned to face the older guard. “Oh, good. They had me worried.”
“Good job spotting them. I doubt many would have managed it.”
“Really? I thought they pretty obvious out in the open like that.”
Michael snorted in amusement. “For you maybe. I, on the other hand, knew what I was looking for and barely spotted them.”
“So why could I spot them so easily?”
“My guess is it’s part of who you are, Jeremy. You are, after all, a legend come to life.”
Jeremy shuddered in the damp. “Some legend, I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Michael squeezed the young man’s shoulder. “It’s alright, son. You’ll remember, and when you do you’ll know what to do.”
“You really think so?”
“I do. We Seekers have been waiting for someone like you for a very long time. I doubt you’d be here without a purpose.”
Jeremy didn’t know what to make of the older guard’s faith. He still felt lost, and very much adrift, in a world he barely understood. The fact was, he was a mystery to himself, and he was as surprised by what he could do as anyone. He didn’t feel, however, he could convey any of these feelings to Michael. Instead, he smiled slightly and nodded.
The crystal Jeremy wore around his neck grew slightly warm, and he instinctively realized it indicated that Sheilak was happy.
“What is it?” He thought.
“Time is soon here. You will be unleashed.” Came the reply.