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 party quickly packed up their meals and began following the guards back through the busy streets. The way before them was cleared much as Micheal had done earlier, only now the guards were shouting something different.
“Make way! Senator of the people. Make way!”
As the group passed through a hastily formed pathway, Jeremy noticed groups of people stopping and staring at their procession in a way which was not very “Ravine-like.” Some seemed to recognize Walter, and pointed at him in excitement. After several blocks the words “Old Fox” began to whisper over the streets.
While he smiled outwardly at the attention, it was clear to Jeremy Walter wasn’t pleased. He’d heard the old trader whisper to Ama, smile still shining brightly on his face, “I don’t care what you think you know about about me, Meddle. I never enjoyed this show.”
Ama grinned, “Yes, Old Fox, I know you like the quiet life.”
“That’s not what I said, Meddle.”
“Yes, Walter, I know. But don’t tell me you aren’t a little encouraged by this reception.” Walter shook his head slightly and muttered something unintelligible, smile never once wavering.
As the group continued forward the crowds grew in both number and volume. The guards who were leading their group paid no heed to the attention their charges were generating, though Jeremy noticed they did seem to slow down when entering into areas where a crowd had not yet formed. This gave people a chance to recognize the procession and join in forming the parade route.
After many blocks, the group passed through small gate and the crowds suddenly disappeared Jeremy wondered why until he looked straight ahead and saw a wall of white blocking the path. They had arrived at last at the walls of The Ravine.
Still, the sudden absence of people unsettled him. “Where is everybody?”
“You’re in the officer district, Jeremy,” Answered Michael. “Only those who are in the government, the city guards, and their guests may enter here. We passed into it two blocks back.”
“The question is, why have we come this way?” added Walter.
At this the guard who had led their procession turned and addressed the group. “Please don’t fear. President Satal heard of plans for the guards under Senator Merkot’s direct control to detain you before you were able to enter the city. We were sent to make sure your arrival was public, and your arrival within the walls unhindered.”
Walter shrugged. “Well, I appreciate the effort then, patroller. I suppose your gate is near by?”
“Yes sir, right this way.” The guard turned and the party toward a smaller side street. As they turned Jeremy saw two large doors ahead, seemingly embedded into the great white walls. In front of the doors, however was a most unwelcome sight. Guards in the now familiar uniform of the First Run troop blocked their path.
As the group approached, one of the First Run guards stepped forward and held up his hand.
“Stand and be recognized.”
The guard who had been guiding them through the city motioned for his charges to halt, and then stepped forward.
“What is the meaning of this? You have no jurisdiction here!”
“Relax, Patroller. We’re here on orders from command looking for people who may be attempting to enter the city under false pretenses.”
“Well, then step aside. I’m under orders from President Satal to deliver the senator and his companions to her presence.”
The guard blocking their path actually chuckled. “Well, see, that’s where things get a bit touchy. You see, the man wearing the captain’s uniform there has been mustered out of service and has no business here.” Pointing at Terrin he added, “That other man there is wanted to abandoning his post and refusing to follow orders of a superior officer.
“You’re free to pass with the others, but those two will be coming with us.”
Terrin spoke first, “Walter, Michael and I will go with these men. It will…”
“Shut up Terrin,” Walter snapped. Stepping forward, Walter cried out, “These men are with me. And the actions they have taken have been at my behest. They are under my protection until I can present the to the Senate and will stay with me.”
The guard smiled. “Well, Senator, perhaps you would like to come with us before you meet with President Satal. I sure would could get this sorted out in no time.”
The guards in front of the gate began to more forward slowly, wicked smiles on their faces. Before Walter could respond, Michael and Terrin pulled out their canes and stood in front of the old trader.
“Oh my, the city really is quite exciting, is it?” Jeremy was shaken out of his anxiety and turned to Talum, who wore a delighted grin and clapped his hands excitedly. Walter didn’t look at the healer, but shook his head in frustration.
“Come on, Senator,” called the guard. There’s no need for violence. “We just want to ask you some questions.”
“Patroller, you are attempting to prevent a senator from his appointed task. I suggest you back down.”
The guard shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry about this Senator. Troop, canes to the ready!” The group of guards pulled their canes out in unison and heard them forward in a battle stance. Before he could give the order to attack, however, the doors opened behind them.From the dark opening emerged a middle-aged woman of average height and pale blue eyes, followed by a group of guards in a uniform Jeremy didn’t recognize. The guards glanced back at this newcomer and, recognizing her, bowed.
“President Satal,” the lead guard managed. “I Am surprised at your arrival. How may I be of service?”
The woman looked the guard with disdain. “You can start by allowing the Senator and his guests through.”
“Madam President, I do have orders from command to bring former Captain Michael and the deserter Terrin in for questioning.”
President Satal glared at the obstructing guard. Jeremy couldn’t be certain, but as she stared he thought he saw her eyes deepened into a darker blue. The guard lowered his gaze.
“I am well away of the issues surrounding these two guards, Patroller, and I will deal with their cases personally. Now return to your posts, and please tell command to respect the authority of the guards in this city. Or has Senator Merkot decided to disband them as well?”
The guard glanced up, expressionless. “I will pass on your message, Madam President.”
“Good. Now away with you!”
The guard nodded to his companions. As a group they stood and departed the street, leaving only the party and President Satal with her guard. She strode forward and clasped Walter’s hand.
“Good to see you Old Fox, though I can’t say you aren’t causing a bit of a headache.” She then nodded over Walter’s right shoulder. “Ama.”
“What’s been going on here, Satal? Has Merkot lost complete leave of his senses?”
She shook her head. “Not here, Old Fox. Let’s get down to my office and we can chat.”
With that she motioned for her guard to open to doors into the city and led the group inside. Jeremy, who had long anticipated arriving in the capital of The Valleys, took a deep breath and exhaled as he passed through the portal. He gazed through the tunnel ahead, expecting to see a bustling city.
Instead, he saw nothing but open air.
Confused, he continued through the tunnel and found himself standing on a wide walkway which seemed to work it’s way fully around the interior of the walls. Stepping to the rail he looked down, and scarcely believed what he saw.
The capital of The Valleys was, indeed, a crack in the world. Visitors entered at the top level, but the city grew down rather than up. From his vantage point he counted at least six levels below him, lined with the facades of homes and shops. Bridges crossed between the sides of the city, acting as shortcuts been various locales. Staircases were everywhere allowing for quick access between levels. Far off in front of him, Jeremy though he could make out what looked like small rooms, moving up and down. He didn’t know why, but the word “elevator” came to his mind when he brought that scene into focus.
Glancing up, he was greeted with what he assumed was the same type of crystal expanse which also covered Shelter. The Ravine was a fully-enclosed space.
Michael positioned himself next to Jeremy and motioned outward with his hands. “And now, Jeremy, you see why it’s called The Ravine.”