Today’s blog is the continuation of, Welcome to the Valleys. If you would like to catch up with the tale, the first section can be found at this link
The path of Second Run continued to round the base of the small hill upon which Second Light stood. As the road continued to bend the travelers were granted a splendid view of capital city of The Valleys. With the further rising of the Sun Jeremy noticed, indeed, the city walls were made up of a white stone which brilliantly reflected the emerging light of morning. The tops of the walls sparkled with crystalline vibrance, and Jeremy wondered what adornments might mark such a brilliant facade. The river which they had been following bent around the city, nearly hugging it’s Eastern edge. To the immediate West of the settlement stood a tall watch tower, crowning a low mountain. It dominated the scene to such an extent Jeremy wondered why he had not noticed it through the night, and then realized it must have been hidden by the fog of the storm. To the East the main artery of The Boulevard flowed into town, cutting through the rolling hills and well-tended farms of The Inner Valleys.
“It’s beautiful,” said Jeremy. He turned to his friend and was shocked to see tears flowing down Walter’s cheeks. The old trader noticed Jeremy’s stare and rubbed his eyes dry.
“It is that, lad. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it until this moment.” Walter pointed to the city in the distance. “The Coastlands are my home now, but that will always be my native city.”
“It must mean a lot to you.”
Walter nodded. “I think, maybe, I convinced myself it didn’t. But you’re right, lad. This place means a great deal to me.”
“And the Old Fox awakes at last.” Jeremy turned to see Ama smiling widely at her friend.
“Listening in again, Meddle?”
“I always pay you mind, Old Fox. It’s the only way to make sure you get into the right trouble.”
Walter turned and continued up the road. Over his shoulder he called back, “Don’t you mean ‘keep me out of trouble?’”
Ama laughed warmly. “Oh, Old Fox, I know you well enough to realize how impossible a task that would be. It’s best if I just try to keep you pointed in the right direction.”
“The Old Fox is fulcrum of change.” Chimed in Sheilok. Walter turned to Jeremy, a growl upon his face. The youth threw up his arms apologetically and waved his hands.
“Don’t look at me, Walter, I didn’t say it!”
“Yah, well. Tell your friend I’m not so comfortable with the feeling the Guardians have been manipulating me. I know they mean well but… a Man needs to feel as though he has some control over his life.”
“Apologies, mis-timed humor,” spoke a voice in Jeremy’s head.
“It’s OK, I think Walter understands how important you are. He’ll come around,” replied Jeremy silently. Out loud he simply said, “Sheilok apologizes. She saw an opportunity to make a joke and spoke out of turn.”
Walter could only shake his head and mutter, but Ama smiled and winked. Talum’s interest, however, was peaked.
“A joke? Fascinating. Beklow doesn’t have much time for human concepts like humor. Does Sheilok understand our interactions?”
“Better than many, not perfect. Love humans, cherish ways.,” voiced Sheilok. Talum beamed and opened his mouth to continuing his questioning, but Ama placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Perhaps, Sheilok, you and Talum can discuss this later. Who knows what ears may be hidden along the road.”
“Ah. Well, yes I suppose that would be prudent,” said Talum, clearly not pleased with Ama’s suggestion. Sheilok said nothing, but Jeremy thought he could feel her nodding in agreement.
Terrin grinned. “You’ll have to forgive Healer Talum. We in Meadowrun know him to be a man of great integrity, but his curiosity knows no bounds.”
“We all know Talum’s reputation, Terrin. Thank you,” called Walter from ahead. “Now, can we all be quiet for a bit? I’ve been chased across the Inner Valleys for who knows what reason and I’d like to enjoy this one moment of peace before throwing myself into the mess once more.”
“Of course, Senator. Our apologies,” replied Michael for the group. Ama nodded to him in thanks and the travelers grew silent as they proceeded onward.
The closer they grew to the city, the greater the brilliant white walls rose before them. Their outer face appeared to be utterly smooth and polished. Here and there Jeremy could see openings near the top, out of which he assumed guards kept watch. There were no towers, however, and this struck Jeremy as odd.
Walter, who had lapsed into a reflective silence, was mildly startled by the sound of Jeremy’s voice. “Hmm? Oh, yes lad?”
“I know I don’t remember all that much, but it seems to me it would make sense for a walled city to have towers so the guards could see better. Even Water Gap had some.”
“Hmm. Good observation, lad. The Ravine’s never had any, though. And those walls are as old as The Valleys. Even the watchtower on Mount Helston was built only a few hundred years ago.”
“But doesn’t that limit the effectiveness of the walls?”
Walter shrugged. “I suppose, but I’m not certain defense was their purpose.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Um healers say the walls have certain properties which make the city difficult to detect. Though from what they won’t tell anyone. Isn’t that right, Talum?”
“Hmm? Oh, am I allow to speak?”
Walter grunted in frustration, which caused Jermey to smile. “Just answer the question, Talum.”
“Oh, well. Yes. As Ama well knows the deepest knowledge of each healing order is told only to those who are adherents. The secret of the walls is linked to the secrets of the machines we Um healers use, I’m afraid. So other than saying ‘these walls hid our people’ I cannot cannot say more.”
“There. You see, Jeremy? All our groups have our private little secrets. It’s something which drives the Seekers into fits.”
“Only some of us, Walter. Others understand the point of keeping the orders separate.”
“What’s the point, Michael?” asked Jermey.
“The same as those walls, lad. To keep us hidden.”
“Hidden from what?”
Walter pointed to the crystal hanging from Jeremy’s neck. “Why don’t you ask your friend? I’m sure she knows. Actually, lad, I’m fairly certain you knew before you made yourself forget. Probably for the same reason.”
“To keep hidden?”
“It’s the best reason I can come up with. I’m guessing we’ll all figure it out the answer to that question soon, though.” Walter stroked his chin as he added darkly, “And then maybe we’ll all wish we’d stayed ignorant.”
“Sheilok, who are we trying to hide from?” Jeremy asked silently.
“Cannot answer. Danger. Keep safe. The Old Fox is correct.”
Jeremy lapsed into silence, pondering Sheilok’s response. He wondered if Walter was correct about the aftermath of finding his answers, and it filled him with dread. He coming to believe he would have to remember himself soon, but feared that in so doing he’d place the entirely of The Valleys in great danger.
As if reading his thoughts, Sheilok consoled Jeremy as he wrestled internally. “You are not threat. You will save all.”
Jeremy hoped she was right.