Unpacking a Nightime Stroll

I’ve been wanting to return to my “unpacking” posts ever since NaNoWriMo ended, but just haven’t had the time or energy. I finally have some time to breathe, so today “unpacking” returns. A lot has gone on in the journey since I last worked with a segment like this, but this final turn toward The Ravine sets a rather interesting tone. Let’s unpack.

The threat

Ever since Kaitlyn showed up in Riverside there has been an underlying tone of fear in the story. Right now we don’t even know if the government of The Valleys, as the characters knew it, is still functioning. I’ve found this arc to be most interesting. Walter and Ama, in particular, are used to being privy to most of the goings on in The Valleys 1. Cutting them off from this sense of security puts them on a much more even plain with Jeremy – through whose eyes we are seeing the story unfold. Right now, no one knows what’s going on, just that Riverside is still functioning as if the laws of The Valleys are still in effect.

Riverside’s undercurrent

Riverside was founded by people who didn’t trust the Pathfinders. They’d lived under the Prismatics and saw how that ended up, in spite of their benevolence. As such, of all the original settlements in The Valleys, Riverside is most likely to defy the Senate – which we see in their slur “The Cracks” for the higher powers in The Ravine. The town’s tolerance for, and profit from, river smuggling is an open act of defiance toward’s Merkot’s “reforms.” What this will mean for the town once the First Run guards move in will be interesting to see.

The problem is, as Steve points out, the Senate goes out of their way to make river trading unprofitable. Steve, and well as most Riverside residents, believe this is simply out of a sense of greed. It is much cheaper to move goods along the river than along the roads, but that was not the original intent of these rules. Boats, in general, have long been discouraged in The Valleys. The reasons for this sense of unease may be revealed in this story.

The moment of choice

I have to admit I was a bit uncertain whether or not to include the scene where Walter asks some of the companions to decide if they want to continue on the journey. It’s a notion so common it’s become cliché. I finally ended up including it because it made sense for Walter to offer it. When he was reasonably certain the Senate would give him a positive reception upon his arrival, he was willing to accept the help of Michael, Terrin, and even Talum. As he is no longer confident of this, he’s not willing to assume their support. As it is, each companion has a reason for continuing on in the journey. To me, this helped their recommitment feel more authentic to the characters.

Is this happening…?

I haven’t had much direct interaction between Jeremy and Walter for a while now, and this nighttime stroll seemed like a good time to bring the two characters back together 2. While it hasn’t come out very strongly in Walter’s character arc, both are struggling with the idea they might be the catalyst for the collapse apparently under way in The Valleys. Kaitlyn, certainly, has projected that notion upon Walter and her barbs have stuck in his mind.

Of course the events are not their fault, even if they do happen to be the catalyst which is exposing of much of the corruption prevalent in the society of The Valleys. It’s interesting that Walter doesn’t even consider the problems to even be Merkot’s fault. Rather, the old senator sees his adversary as the logical result of Inner Valley corruption. This won’t stop Walter from directly confronting Merkot, should it come to that, but it adds some depth to his character’s understanding of the world.

The truth is, during this journey Walter is rediscovering his love for The Valleys. And he is learning how to recommit to saving them from itself.

  1. Even in self-imposed exile, Walter had a good grasp of much of when on in The Ravine. 
  2. Remember when Walter freaked out about Jeremy’s idea that a walk in the moonlight was “romantic?” Well, here they are in the dark, and it’s definitely not romantic.