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
Jasim led the party through the paths of The Ravine’s bureaucracy for nearly twenty minutes. By the time he halted them in front of their destination Jeremy was hopelessly lost, a fact which surprised him. With the exception of the Hall of Healers he’d spotted no walls anywhere on this level of the City, and yet he found he could not mentally retrace the steps he’d taken from the elevator. The rhythmic movement of the vast organization surrounding him left him was so disorienting he almost felt as though he were swimming in the ocean surf.
Satal broke Jeremy’s contemplation as she turned and addressed the group.
“Walter, you and Jeremy need to accompany me to my office.” She shifted her focus on to Michael. “Captain, you and Patroller Terrin should probably come as well.”
“What about Ama and Talum?” Jeremy had surprised himself by speaking out, but he’d gotten the impression Satal was dismissing the healers and he felt himself panicking.
Ama placed her hand in Jeremy’s and drew his gaze. Her gentle expression calmed him somewhat as she said, “Healers aren’t permitted into the Presidential Office, Jeremy. Talum and I will go and consult with our Orders and meet you later.”
“But I thought you’d be with me.” There was a childishness to this statement which caused Jeremy to feel a twinge of shame. Still, Ama had been with him almost from the beginning of his journey, and it didn’t seem right to lose her presence at such a critical time.
“I will be, Jeremy. Don’t worry.” She pointed to the ornate door which framed Satal. “I may not be permitted in there, but your real moment will happen on the Senate floor. And there is nothing that will keep me from standing by your side.
“Or me!” Chimed in Talum. “I’m sure Sheilak will do the most extraordinary things before the Senate! It will be fascinating!”
Ama flashed Talum a look of gentle reproach, but Jeremy only smiled. He’d come to understand Talum somewhat, being linked to something he found “fascinating” seemed to be one of his highest compliments. He felt a fondness for the misunderstood healer, and even nearly added some throughts on what Sheilak might do before the Senate, but then he remembered her departure and he was filled with worry once more.
“Jeremy?” prodded Ama. “What is it?”
“Healer, I really must get these people into my offices. Please.”
Ama waved Satal off, “A moment, Madam President. Jeremy?”
He shook his head and smiled broadly. “It’s nothing, I’ll tell you later.”
“Very,” Jeremy lied.
Ama’s eyes narrowed, and Jeremey could tell she didn’t believe his bravado. Still she grinned softly and said, “Very well. Now you go. We will see you soon.”
With that, Ama stepped back and waved him on. As Walter stepped to Jeremy and place his arm over the youth’s shoulders she called out, “Make sure you take care of him, Old Fox.”
“Have I ever let one of my strays down, Meddle?”
“Never, so don’t start today.”
“Senator Walter, I must insist we move.”
“All right Satal!” He called over this shoulder as Satal nodded to her guards and had the door opened. He turned back to his friend and added, “Ama, be well. I’d feel better if Michael went with you.”
She shook her head. “He has his own problems, and the Council of Healing can look after us. I’ll see you both tonight. Now go.” Ama waved them on with her hands and smile. Behind her, Talum waved an awkward goodbye.
Jeremy felt a hand take his arm and lead him on through the open doorway. Once though, it shut with a crack, leaving Jeremy with the impression he’d just been trapped.
“It’s all right, Jeremy,” soothed Walter. “This isn’t a friendly place, but for us it’s safe.”
Satal led the remainder of their group up a set of stairs and then down a narrow hallway. Finally, she ushered them through a simple doorway and into a warmly furnished room beyond. The high ceiling of the office seemed to be carved from the crystal which lit up the lower levels of The Ravine. The light was so pure and welcome Jeremy almost felt as through he were back outside in the sunlight. Half the room, which Jeremy concluded was designed for conversations, was filled with an arrangement of seats and couches. The other half seemed more formal, containing a desk and several high-backed chairs.
Satal directed the party toward the more comfortable section of the room, and as Jeremy made his way to a particularly soft-looking arm chair he noticed a familiar face staring at the group from the far wall.
“Good to see you made it, Old Fox. Though, frankly, you needed a bit more help than I would have expected.”
Walter collapsed into a couch with a grunt and shrugged. “We all need help, Kaitlyn. I see you got back all right as well.”
Kaitlyn nodded as she took the most austere-looking seat in the conference area. Satal eased herself into the most ornate chair in the room. When she sat back Jeremy thought she appeared as if she was seated on a throne. This appearance didn’t pass unnoticed by the two other senators, both of whom frowned slightly as they took in the president’s appearance.
As the others sat, Michael and Terrin remained standing at attention. Seeing this, Satal motioned the two guards toward chairs on either side of her seat. “Gentleman, you are not on duty. you are my guests. After what you’ve been through, offering you a seat in my office seems the least I can do.”
“And if you’d listened to me Satal, perhaps they wouldn’t need to be here at all. I told you Merkot was planning a radical restructuring of the guards. He’s all but shifted them completely out of your control!”
“If I’d listened to you, Kaitlyn, Merkot could very well be sitting in this office right now, instead of me. The rumors of smuggling…”
“Which he started!”
“I know Kaitlyn,” cut in Satal, he nostrils flaring in checked anger. “We have had this discussion. Merkot couldn’t be directly opposed until he over-stepped his bounds so far the people could no longer be mollified by his rumor-mongering. Now, given his expansion of roadblocks and attempts to cross Great Bridge without leave of the Riverside authorities, we finally have the leverage we need to pull him back!”
“And also not risk your precious office.”
“You’d prefer Merkot here, Kaitlyn? You think of me as without-principals, caring only for this office and the power it holds, but you are mistaken. My oath is to The Valleys, all The Valleys. Do not forget that, Senator. In this fight, I am your ally, perhaps the most powerful you have.”
Kaitlyn scowled and crossed her arms, but said nothing more. The hardness which had formed in the Presidents eyes softened again as she turned and addressed Jeremy.
“And now, young man, perhaps you can clarify your own place in all these events. After a centuries-long absence, why have the Prismatics suddenly shown an interest in us once more?”