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
“You all right, lad?”
“J-j-just c-c-cold,” replied Jeremy through chattering teeth.
“It’ll be all right lad, this rain is bound to stop soon and we’ll get into some dry clothes when it does. Just hold on.”
“H-h-how do you k-k-know it’ll s-s-stop soon?”
Walter smiled. “I grew up in these parts, lad, I know my autumn rains when I see them. They like to roll in as the sun sets and fade away as the morning arrives. Tomorrow will be warmer, trust me.”
Walter glanced nervously at Jeremy for a moment, and then waved for Ama to come and join the pair.
“What is it, Walter?”
“The lad’s shivering pretty bad in this damp. Can you do anything for him?”
Jeremy held up his hand. “N-n-no, I’ll b-b-b-be fine.” He stammered as he stifled a yawn.
“Hmmm, why don’t you allow me to be the judge of that? A Prismatic you may be, but I am a healer.”
Walter halted their group as Ama raised her hand to Jeremy’s cheek. It felt extremely hot to the touch, but as the healer made contact her eyes narrowed in Concern. She turned to Walter.
“I don’t suppose we’ll be able to stop until this rain passes and Jeremy can get into some dry clothes?”
Walter shook his head, “We can’t, Meddle. We’ve got to be well out of Riverside by the time the Sun comes up or we may never make it to The Ravine.”
Ama frowned slightly. “As I thought.” She turned toward Talum, “Go and fetch my restoratives, please.”
Michael stepped forward, brow knitted in concern. “Are you all right, Jeremy?”
“I’m c-c-cold is a-a-all.” Jeremy stammered as he yawned.
The older guard placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure Ama will be able to give you some help with that.”
Talum returned and handed over Ama’s satchel of restoratives. The healer rummaged through the pack for a bit, finally pulling out a vial of bright pink liquid. As she retrieved it a smile brightened her face.
“Ah, I’m glad I decided to pack this.” Handing it to Jeremy she said, “Here, Jeremy, take one swallow and then put the stopper back on the vial. If your shivering returns, take one more mouthful.”
“W-w-what is it?”
“It’s a restorative which will warm your body.” She proffered the vial again. “Please, take it.”
Jeremy took the vial and unstopped it, a task made more difficult than it should have been due to the way his hands were shaking. Raising the vial to his lips he caught a scent of peppermint, and it’s vapors opened his sinuses as he took a swallow of the potion. Almost immediately his shivering stopped, and he felt warmth return to his hands and face. He stoppered the vial with a grin.
Jeremy nodded brightly. “Much better. Thanks Ama!”
The healer smiled wanly, “It’s my calling as a healer, Jeremy. But the effects of that restorative do wear off after a time. If you begin to shiver even a bit, even after the Sun reappears, you must take a second dose.”
For the first time, Jeremy became worried. “Was something really wrong.”
Ama looked in Jeremy’s eyes for a moment, then nodded slightly. “The dampness on your clothing and falling temperatures was causing your body temperature to drop. My restorative will allow your body to acclimate itself, so the danger is passed for now.”
“OK,” replied Jeremy, though a hint of uncertainty crept into his voice.”
“You’re OK, lad. Don’t worry. Now, let’s get moving.”
The group set off once more, and returned to silence. As Walter had predicted, however, soon the rain began to subside. Though the rain ceased, the clouds remained, blocking the stars and moon from shining. The only light by which the party could see was the glow of the evertorches which lined the road. As they walked the buildings of Riverside began to grow father and farther apart. Soon Jeremy spied an arch up ahead, which was adorned with evertorches. It’s glow dominated the open area which surrounded it, it shimmered eerily in the mist.
“OK, that’s first light,” Walter informed Jeremy. “It marks the first outskirts of Riverside. About two miles down the road is second light, which marks the edge of the Riverside council’s authority. Alec’s people will meet us there, and you can get into some dry clothes.”
“Good,” said Jeremy. Warmed up though he was, he remained uncomfortable in his wet clothing.
The group passed quietly, and without incident, through the arch. In the area surrounding the portal Jeremy could make out some evertorches placed off the main road, but between the light of the arch and the mist he couldn’t make out what they illuminated.
“What is this place?”
“It’s a park, lad. People from Riverside come here to enjoy some time away from town and get some fresh air. During the Summer months they even hold nighttime concerts under arch. People come from both The Ravine and Riverside to attend them, it’s quite a sight.”
“People travel in the dark in the Inner Valleys?”
“That they do. It’s not my favorite time to travel, and out by the coast we wouldn’t even think of it. But folks feel pretty safe along the roads here. People in the Inner Valleys tend to think of this as a human place, and believe the monsters are far from its boundaries.”
“A grand joke,” spoke Sheilok in Jeremy’s mind. It was followed by something the youth could only interpret as chuckling.
“You all right, Lad?”
“Yes. It’s just that Sheilok thinks it’s pretty funny that people don’t think the Guardians live near the Inner Valleys.”
Walter snorted. “Yah, well, folks are in for a bit of a shock. That’s for sure.” The old trader placed his arm around Jeremy’s shoulder and squeezed. “You’re changing a lot of what we think we know about ourselves, lad.”
“I just wish I could understand why.”
“I know, but be patient. You’ve got friends looking out for you. No matter what.”
Jeremy nodded, but found himself unable to speak. Walter patted his shoulder and removed his arm. Several minutes later the road bent around a low hill. It was adorned with two pillars capped with two of the largest evertorches Jeremy had ever seen. The party rounded the hill and as they did Jeremy spotted two small buildings on ether side of the road. Though they were small, even from a distance he could tell they were more than utilitarian shacks. The stonework gave the buildings character.
Walter glanced at Jeremy and smiled, “The Riverside Council likes to remind The Ravine they’re more than just a satellite to their city. This whole area marks the boundary of the Senate’s direct authority.”
As they approached the two buildings a single guard, dressed in Riverside fashion, emerged and held up his hand. “Halt and be identified,” he said simply.
Walter glanced back at Ama, who nodded. “Senator Walter Old Fox and company.”
The guard smiled and nodded. Lowering his hand he added, “Good to see you made it, sir. I have news you’ll find interesting.”