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
President Satal led the group around the top level of the city. As they traveled, the expanse of The Ravine became both more wide and deep. The roar of people, going through their daily routines, also grew in volume.
“We’ll make our way to the Southern Lifts, and then directly to my office. We can talk there, Old Fox.”
“Will we have any trouble in the city, Satal?”
She shook here head. “No. Merkot hasn’t been able to make much headway with the guards in The Ravine. They are, after all, under the direct authority of the President.”
“Forgive me, Madam President,” interjected Michael. “But we have seen Senator Merkot expanding his power over the last few days. Are you not concerned he has his eyes on the presidency as well?”
“I do, captain. Which is why I am glad both you and Patroller Terrin managed to make it here. Merkot will not be pleased.”
“Madam President, I’m afraid the guards at the gate were correct. I did abandon my post and refused a direct order from my superior. In such a disgraced state I’m not certain what help I can give.”
Satal stopped suddenly and turned, causing the party to stumble to an awkward halt.
“Patroller Terrin. You say you abandoned your post and refused to follow a direct order from your superior?”
Terrin nodded. “Yes, Madam President. That is correct.”
“I say you obeyed your oath and assisted a Senator on his journey. A journey which was being obstructed illegally by an over-zealous politician. You are evidence of Merkot’s over-reach!”
“But with these accusations over me my testimony won’t be accepted”
Satal sighed roughly and glared at Walter. “I though you only picked up intelligent strays, Old Fox.”
Terrin reddened furiously in response to Satal’s thinly veiled insult, but Walter patted him on the shoulder.
“Easy, Satal. Terrin here is too noble to be playing politics in The Ravine. He’s a better person than you, me, or any other politician.”
“Except, perhaps, Kaitlyn,” added Ama.
Walter grunted acknowledgment. “There’s always one black sheep, Meddle.” Turning back to the President he continued, “The point is Satal, rather than insulting one of the only people who can help you block Merkot’s rise to power, perhaps you could show a bit of respect.”
Satal held Walter’s gaze for a moment, but relented and nodded slightly in agreement.
“You’re right, of course. My apologies, Patroller Terrin. I sometimes find myself so engrossed in politics I forget most people don’t play the game.”
“I understand, Madam President.”
Satal waved her hand. “No, you don’t. But, as Walter has intimated, that is probably a good thing. You are a noble man, Patroller Terrin, too noble for this place.”
“But what will you have me do, Madam President?”
Satal glanced around at her surroundings. As she did so Jeremy noticed, despite the President’s assurances, her guard stood in a state of high alert. Things were more dangerous in The Ravine than she was letting on. Finall,y she shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the two guards.
“We do need to keep moving. In fact, I shouldn’t have stopped at all. But, I will answer this one question. Both you, Captain, and Patroller Terrin will testify in front of the full Senate. You will be the face given to the whispers of Merkot’s reach for power.”
“I’m to be pardoned?” Questioned Terrin.
Satal turned and beckoned for the others to follow. Over he shoulder, however, she called back, “No, Patroller, you are not. How can I pardon someone who has committed no crime?”
Terrin brightened suddenly, and quickened his pace. Satal lapsed into silence and also sped her steps, which left Jeremy straining to keep up. At last Satal’s guards ushered the group on to a bridge which spanned the chasm. Along the left side was a row of doors, all of which stood open. Satal walked up to one of the guards, who had been standing the nearest door. She spoke briefly with him, but Jeremy was unable to hear the conversation over the noise echoing up from the levels below. At last, the guard nodded and motioned for the party to follow him into the first car.
Satal stood by as the group entered the small room beyond the threshold. “I was afraid we’d have to split up into two cars, but Jasim says we’ll be fine all in one. We’ll take this all the way down to my office level.” With that Satal entered the small room, turned, and pulled a metal gate across the threshold as a guard outside shut the door behind them.
“Level 2, Jasim,” she said to the guard.
“Yes Madam President.” Jasim reached for a handle which was mounted on the wall and pulled it down twice. Each time he did so Jeremy heard a bell ring somewhere in the distance. After a short pause a bell inside the room also rang twice. Then with a screech which caused Jeremy to jump, the room began to descend slowly into the depths of The Ravine.
As they passed through the deck of the bridge, Jeremy suddenly understood why the gate had been pulled across the room’s threshold. Out in front of the room was nothing but open space. Jeremy dared to edge closer to the gate and looked down upon the level below, fascinated by the view.
“Are you all right, Jeremy?” Whispered Ama.
“Hmm?” he replied, startled. “Oh, yes, Ama. It just… I think I’ve been in an elevator before, but I don’t remember it being so… open.”
“I’m sorry, young man,” cut in Satal. “What was that word you used?”
Jeremy turned and fell into the gaze of Satal’s deep blue eyes. He felt slightly unnerved by her attention, but managed to say, “An elevator. Isn’t that what’s this called?”
Satal’s eyes narrowed. “We call them ‘lifts,’ and I know of no where else in The Valleys which has them. Where did you hear that word used to describe them?”
“I… don’t know.” Jeremy glanced over to Walter, looking for instructions. Mercifully, the old trader stepped in.
“This is Jeremy, Satal. He’s become my apprentice, of sorts. Poor lad’s lost his memory, though. He comes out with strange words like that all the time, I’m afraid.”
Satal’s gaze remained fixed on Jeremy, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Does he now? How fascinating. I’m looking forward to hearing the story of how you came to be associated with Walter, young man.”
Jeremy found himself fending off a sudden urge to lower his gaze away from Satal’s eyes. The longer he resisted, however, the more he felt himself straightening his stand. Unexpectedly, Jeremy found himself gazing back at Satal with his own piercing stare. “It’s not all that interesting, Madam President.”
Satal cocked her head with interest as her eyes widened slightly. She turned her head to Walter, brow wrinkled with an unspoken question. In response, Walter nodded slightly. Satal then turned back to Jeremy, but her expression was changed. Whereas before she had gazed upon him with a burning and suspicious interest, she now seemed fascinated by him. A smile slowly creeped across her face as she said, “On the contrary, young man, I believe you might be the most interesting person in all of The Valleys.”