Fiction Tuesday – Heart of the web

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

Welcome to the Valleys CoverWalter’s eyes opened in alarm, and then narrowed in anger as he turned on Kaitlyn. “You told her?”

Kaitlyn met Walter’s gaze, eyes narrowing to nearly mirror Walter’s own face. “Of course I told the President, Walter. You take up with legends from the past and you expect me to not inform the head of the Senate? Who knows what he really wants from us!”

“He’s a lost lad, Kaitlyn. That’s all anyone needs to know.” Walter shouted back.

Jeremy sank back in his chair as Kaitlyn bit her lip in frustration. He’d never seen Walter so angry, he found it unsettling. Kaitlyn’s matching vitriol was equally unnerving. He knew the Senator was skeptical of his intentions from their previous encounter, but he hadn’t gotten the impression she was actually hostile toward him. Here in The Ravine, there was a wildness in her shouts which betrayed a growing dislike for what he represented. He couldn’t help but think, “What did we do to these people, that I’d produce that much anger?”

They feel abandoned. The memory of The Valleys is clouded.

“Sheilak?” Jeremy thought. “You’re back!”

Yes. My family is well, they are proud.

As pleased as Jeremy was at Sheilak’s return, something about the Guardian seemed different. She sounded clearer, somehow. “Sheilak, you sound different,” was the only description Jeremy could give.

Yes. The depth helps, as does the light of the evertorches. Here I am home, and I draw little energy.

Jeremy instinctively reached up to touch the crystal at his chest. He hadn’t noticed before Sheilak mentioned it, but the crystal was only mildly cool to the touch.

“Is something wrong Jeremy?” Satal’s voice drew him back out of his conversation with the guardian. He lifted his gaze to the President and noticed the other in the room were also staring at his hand, which was still clutching the crystal.

“No, madam President. Nothing’s wrong.”

Kaitlyn, however, pointed an accusing finger toward Jeremy. “You’re speaking to that ‘friend’ of yours, aren’t you?”

“Kailyn…” Walter warned.

“Don’t take that tone with me, Old Fox. Don’t you think the President has the right to know the mystery boy you’ve brought her speaks with the monsters of our nightmares?”

The room suddenly went dark as the Jeremy’s crystal burned his chest with cold. The people in the office gasped in shock as Sheilak began to speak.

“We are not monsters. We are the dwellers of light, who suffer to keep those we love safe. We are the cloud which protects, and the givers of the evertorches. We are your Guardians, Kaitlyn Justice, and the old bonds must be restored!”

Light flooded back into the office and warmth flooded back into Jeremy’s body. Color had drained from Kailyn’s face, but Walter sat back in his seat wearing a wide grin. Michael and Terrin were not quite a shaken as the Senator, but darted their glances around the room as if looking for some unforeseen threat. To Jeremy’s great shock, Satal was unmoved. She remained as she had been prior to the fall of darkness, leaning forward in her chair and appraising Jeremy with clever eyes. She sat back suddenly, holding Jeremy’s gaze, and casually crossed her legs.

“So, she speaks,” was her only remark.

Jeremy was tempted to not reply, but felt compelled to do so after Sheilak’s display. “Yes. Mostly to me, but sometimes to others.”

“And is it always so dramatic?”

He shook his head, “No. I think she was frustrated with the Senator and wanted to get everyone’s attention.”

“Well, I’d say she succeeded.” She turned to Kaitlyn, “And it appears, Senator Kaitlyn, Jeremy’s ‘friend’ has taken a bit of an interest in you.”

This prospect did not appear welcome to the Senator from Water Gap. “What do you mean?”

Satal grinned. “She referred to you as ‘Kaitlyn Justice.’ Isn’t that the name proclaimed as your Senate designation?”

Kaitlyn scowled. “Yes. Unlike the Old Fox, however, I try not to use it. It’s pompous.”

“Yes. In fact, I’d say very few people who are not in the Senate’s circles even remember your designation.” She then turned her head toward Michael and Terrin and added, “Isn’t that right Captain?”

Michael nodded solemnly. “That is correct, Madam President. I was not aware of Senator Kaitlyn’s designation – like many of the younger Senators she’s never used it.” Terrin nodded in agreement.

“So I say again, she seems to have taken an interest in you. At least enough to learn your Senate designation.”

Jeremy could feel Sheilak snorting in amusement at Satal’s words, a sensation which was rather uncomfortable. “What’s so funny?” he asked, trying to seem as though he was still engaged in the conversation around him.

We gave Kaitlyn her designation.

“What?”

We give all the designations. It is our role.

“You’re staring into space again, Jeremy.” Satal chided. “Is there something Sheilak would like to share with us?”

“Well, Madam President, Sheilak thought your comments were funny.”

Satal cocked an eyebrow in query. “Did she?”

“Yes. Because she said the Guardians give every Senator their designation. She said it’s their role, somehow.”

“I find that difficult to believe, young man.”

Satal’s designation is ‘Weaver,’ the spinner of webs. Tell her.

“Um. She knows your designation, Madam President.”

For the first time in this meeting, Satal appeared uncomfortable. She cocked her head, a bit too casually, and said in an off-handed manner. “Really?”

“Yes. Sheilak says it’s ‘Weaver,’ because you are a spinner of webs.”

Satal’s discomfort shifted to intense interest. “Fascinating. I haven’t used that designation in years. In fact, I even had it redacted from my early days as a Senator once I took office.”

“A bit difficult to weave webs when you’re advertising you’re a schemer, Satal?”

“Not any more than ‘Old Fox’ is a public declaration of shrewdness, Walter.” Satal shot back. “There is nothing sinister about what I do – I weave to keep The Valleys together. And this is what I will continue to do.”

Turning again toward Michael and Terrin, Satal spoke. “Gentleman, your records are hereby cleared of any charges Merkot may want to place upon you. Moreover, Captain, your retirement is cancelled and I’m making you a Captain-at-large for The Ravine. You will answer to this office.”

Michael’s eyes widened with surprise. “Thank you, Madam President.”

From Michael’s reaction, Jeremy understood this was quite a promotion, but didn’t understand to what extent Michael’s position had changed with the President’s words. Satal, noticing his confusion, said, “This makes Michael equal in rank with those who are in the top command of our Guards, Jeremy. As long as our laws are followed, Michael will hold some of the greatest authority of all the guards in The Valleys.”

Jeremy nodded in appreciation as Satal addressed Terrin. “Patroller Terrin. Our new Captain-at-large has need of a staff. Therefore I appoint you lieutenant under his command.”

“You’re making me an officer, Madam President?”

“Lieutenant Terrin,” Satal began as she handed him a small wooden box. “You have shown more integrity in your position, upholding the rights of senators and the well-being of the innocent, than many who have recently graduated to our patrols. This is a well-deserved honor in an day were such things too often pass unmarked.”

Terrin received the box and opened it, revealing the rank insignia of a lieutenant in the Guards. Closing it, he nodded and muttered, “Thank you, Madam President.”

“As for your first assignment, Gentleman. I ask you to continue the task you have already taken upon yourselves. You will protect the young man Jeremy, and assist him as he determines his purpose. If it is indeed for the good of The Valleys, as he assumes, you will assist him. If it is for our ill, however, I expect you to move to protect us all.”

Walter barked a laugh. “Well played, ‘Weaver.’ You make his friends beholden to you, and grant them the illusion of freedom at the same time.”

“Take it as you will, Old Fox, but my aim is the well-being of The Valleys. I’m also just getting started, tell me about this evercoal deposit you intend to present to the Senate.”

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