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
As the lift continued to descend into the depths of The Ravine, Jeremy began to feel a pulsing from the crystal he wore around his neck. He was still learning how to read Sheilak’s moods, given how alien the Guardians were, but he easily identified this pulse as “happy.”
“You seem chipper,” he said in his mind.
“Yes. Origin. Joy.”
“Origin? You’re from The Ravine?”
The crystal pulsed with more strength, and Sheilak’s words became more coherent. “*Yes. This is my origin. I must go and tell story.”
The crystal was now pulsing so strongly Jeremy felt as though he now had two hearts in his chest.
“Go? Go where?”
“To my family. The deepness calls, I will visit and return. You are safe. For now.”
“Wait!” Jeremy cried out into his thoughts. But it was too late, the crystal had stopped pulsing the moment Sheilak departed. He wanted to speak with Walter about the conversation, but didn’t feel it wise to do so in the presence of President Satal. Especially given Satal’s interest in him. Instead, he distracted his thoughts by concentrating on the world of The Ravine, which rose slowly in front of him as the car descended.
Finally, the car came to a lurching halt and Satal’s aide, Jasim, pulled the gate aside and slowly opened the door. He blocked most of the threshold as he stepped out of the car, turning his head from side to side as he scanned the space beyond. Satisfied, he waved to someone out of Jeremy’s field of vision and stepped aside while motioning the car’s passengers forward.
“All clear, Madam President.”
“Thank you Jasim, let’s head to my office.”
“Yes, Madam President,” replied the aide as he directed the group to follow his superior.
Jeremy stepped out from the car and was astonished by his surroundings. Having descended through Ravine he knew the city remained well-lit despite it’s depths, but he did not expect the light to be so brilliant. There was a warmth to this place deep below the surface which he did not expect.
While they had descended past levels which seemed to be mash ups of shopping, residential, and business districts, the level they’d entered appeared much different. There were very few separate spaces carved out of the walls, instead, there seemed to be clusters of desks spread throughout the cavern. As he glanced back out toward the wider part of The Ravine he noticed a few shops and, judging from the smells drifting toward him, at least one restaurant.
“This is the level belonging to the office of the President Jeremy,” said Ama. “It’s the home of the presidential bureaucracy, without which The Valley’s probably wouldn’t function.”
“Ha!” Grunted Walter. “An entire level of the city dedicated to controlling the lives of every man, woman, and child in The Valleys. All done without thought.”
“That isn’t entirely accurate, Old Fox.”
“It might as well be,” Walter grunted in retort. He then sided over to Michael and attempted to engage the guard in conversation, but the latter seemed distracted for some reason.
“You’ll have to excuse Walter, Jeremy. He is, after all, an idealist.”
“What is he so upset about?”
Ama smiled. “Well, here is where the decisions which run The Valleys are disseminated into the world. For example, this is where the rules which prevent the junctions from becoming full towns are upheld. It’s also the point from which the fictional walls which keeps the coastlands on the fringe of our society is maintained. Walter believes if the people here thought about the consequences of the decisions they carried out the world would be a much better place.”
“Sounds like Walter has a point.”
Ama nodded, but frowned. “He does, Jeremy, but only to a point. Walter sees no purpose for this bureaucracy, other than as a tool for unthinking oppression. But it’s also been the glue which has held our widely different people’s together. From here came the standardization of our road systems, and the formation of the guard troops to police them. From here came rules of standard measure, which is helpful for trade. From here sprang the ideas which lead to the orders of healing, which benefit all. The bureaucracy has it’s shortcomings, certainly, but also it’s uses.”
Jeremy sunk into a confused silence as he pondered Ama’s words. In many ways he understood her point, but found himself wishing the world were more simple and “good things” and “bad things” decided to remain separate. As he pondered, people worked all round him at various desks, passing paper around in such a rhythmic fashion it was almost a dance. He found it hypnotizing, until his eyes caught an unusual feature off to his right.
A building, not carved from the walls of The Ravine but built freestanding in the middle of a wide courtyard, loomed over the group as they approached. It was made of the same white stone as the city walls, but was completely unadorned. The utilitarian nature of the building reminded Jeremy of the unfriendly lodge he’d seen in the junction several days back. It looked unfriendly.”
“Ama,” said Jeremy as he pointed. “What is that?”
Ama followed Jeremy’s finger to where he was pointing and smiled. “Ah. That, Jeremy, is the hall of the Healers.”
“Healers? But it looks so unfriendly.”
“Really? I always thought it held an austere dignity.”
“But, why is it so plain? I thought Healers were important.”
“Yes, Jeremy, we are important. Perhaps this is why our hall is plain. What trappings do we need, besides our actions on behalf of all the people’s of The Valleys? In fact, there are many who would like to see the Hall moved to a less-important space, even outside the city.”
“Oh yes. Our presence here is supposed to be a reminder to both President and Senate they work on behalf of the people we care for, but sometimes it does feel as though we become embroiled in the politics of this place. Still, I find comfort knowing we are here.”
“I guess. I really thought it was the headquarters of the guards, though.”
Ama laughed loud enough that several people who were working nearby looked up and scowled at the interruption. Jeremy blushed as Talum turned toward Ama.
“Ama? Is something funny?”
Ama ceased her chuckling, but a smile remained on her face as she responded. “Oh, it’s nothing Talum. Jeremy just thought the Hall of Healers must be guard headquarters, given it looks so ‘unfriendly.’”
Talum cocked his head as he pondered, looking at the Hall. “Hmm, I suppose it does look a bit intimidating. Perhaps a fountain, or flowers. Maybe a garden! I’ll have to work on plans tonight and submit them to the council.” Talum turned as moved away from Ama, muttering ideas under his breath. Ama sighed and shook her head, fondness in her eyes.
“What was so funny, Ama?”
“Oh, Jeremy. We healers see our actions as our adornment. For us, the less outward ornamentation there is, the better. Even Talum would never think to alter the Hall itself, in fact I doubt he’d ever actually looked the building!”
“But he talked about making a garden.”
“Yes and, if I know Talum, his thoughts are about making space for others so they aren’t intimidated by the Hall itself – but he’d never change the Hall. In fact, many Healers distrust heavily ornamented spaces. They believe they reveal a desire to hide the true nature of its inhabitants.”
“If that’s the case, Healer Ama,” voiced Terrin from behind. “You will not be surprised by Merkot’s improvements on Guard Headquarters.”
Jeremy, startled, looked over shoulder at the trailing guard. Terrin’s eyes were alert, scanning their surroundings for potential threats, but he took a moment to fix his gaze on Jeremy and added, “It’s very beautiful.”