Fiction Tuesday – Closed Loop

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 swallowed slowly, but a spark lit up in his eyes as he then smiled.

“Oh, you know about that, do you?”

Satal threw her hands up, shaking her head. “Walter, everyone in the Senate knows about it. And, moreover, you wanted it this way. Don’t deny it.”

“Oh I don’t deny it, Satal. I’m simply glad my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.”

As her gaze narrowed, Satal held up a finger at Walter, calling for a pause in the conversation. Without removing her eyes from the old trader, she reached down and picked up and rang a small bell. Satal’s assistant appeared a moment later, bowing as he approached.

“Madam President, how may I serve?”

Satal turned toward the two guards as responded. “Our new lieutenant and captain need to be processed fully into presidential service. Once complete, please help them oversee the lodgings for their young charge and his mentor. Make sure they are comfortable, but secure.”

“As you wish, Madam President.”

Michael and Terrin both nodded and stood to comply with the President’s wishes. But she held her hand up to prevent them from immediately departing.

“One moment, gentleman. Captain, you no doubt wish to see your family. While you are, indeed, a Captain-at-Large and have any path open to you, I would not advise leaving the government level at this time. Jasim, however, will be able to bring your family to you in order to share the good news of your promotion.”

Micheal bowed. “I thank you, Madam President.”

Satal nodded in acknowledgment, and then addressed Terrin. “If my information is correct, Lieutenant, I believe your family is currently in Riverside?”

Terrin nodded. “Yes, Madam President. I had wished to help them get settled in on our way through town, but circumstances prohibited me.”

“I understand. Our normal channels of communication are not as secure as I’d like, but Jasim will be able to forward a message to them if you wish.”

“I do, Madam President, thank you.”

“Good. I would advise them, however, to stay in Riverside for the moment. Returning to your home in Meadowrun may be a bit… hasty.”

“I agree, Madam President.”

“Good. Now, gentleman, I must ask you to go with Jasim for your processing. I want to give Merkot no excuses for being unaware of your new status.”

As two moved to follow Jasim out of the room, Jeremy’s face whitened in panic. He’d already been separated from Ama and Talum, and was not particularly happy at the prospect of being cut off from two more companions. Michael took notice of Jeremy’s expression and crossed to him before departing. Placing a comforting hand upon his shoulder he calmed Jeremy’s spirits.”

“Do not be concerned, Jeremy. Terrin and I will see you soon. Indeed, given our commission you will be hard-pressed to be rid of us!”

“I don’t want to be rid of you!”

Michael smiled. “Good. But allow me to go now. We’ll prepare our quarters and you will be able to meet us later.”

“All right.”

Michael lifted his hand and smiled. “Good, we will see you soon.” Turning to Satal he bowed. “Madam President.” She said nothing, but nodded slightly as Michael turned and trailed Terrin out the door.

When the door was closed Satal turned to Walter and shook her head. Her expression was neutral, but Jeremy noticed something in her eyes which quietly expressed a sense of anger.

“You’re ‘hard work,’ Old Fox? Do you have any idea what you stirred up in shouting out to anyone with ears to hear that evercoal has been discovered along The Coast?”

“Seeing that I’ve been chased like a rabbit all the way through the Inner Valleys, I’d say I have some idea, yes.”

It was Kaitlyn who answered, “Walter, you know nothing. Your little thunderclap of news set Merkot off the cliffs of sanity. He’s become obsessed with keeping the power of The Valleys away from the outer settlements. All his actions, from closing off Meadowrun and now the Boulevard itself, are because of your revelation. You love the big splash. Who cares about the consequences.?”

“You should have presented this quietly, Walter.” Added Satal.

Walter’s mouth closed in a scowl as his eyes flashed hot with frustration. “Quietly? Satal, do you have any idea what I had to go through to present this here at all? The council at Highcliff,” as the use of the town name Satal frowned slightly. “Yes, Satal, Highcliff. As the Senate has said on numerous occasions, The Coast is officially outside the bounds of The Valleys. So if we want to name our towns we’ll do so!”

Kaitlyn, despite her frustration with Walter, smiled as his declaration. Satal’s frown shortened somewhat but did not fade entirely. She did, however, nod in response.

“Very well. What did the… Highcliff… council want to do?”

“They wanted to declare themselves the capital of an independent realm, and call on any outer settlement who wished to join them to do so!”

Kaitlyn whistled in appreciation, drawing a glare from Satal. The senator shrugged as she responded, “You can’t say it’s not a daring idea. And some of the outer settlements would likely be glad to be free of the Inner Valleys. Probably not Woodhall, but Plantation would almost certainly jump ship if given the opportunity.”

Satal frowned. “The might have caused a war. The Inner Valley senators would never have stood for it.”

Walter reentered the conversation. “I agree, which why I convinced them to petition the Senate for full membership in The Valleys. But, Satal, we’ve almost got a war now, and that’s without declaring independence. You honestly don’t think they might have been better off on their own?”

“Our survival depends on remaining together, Old Fox.”

“Tell that to Merkot.”

You don’t think I’ve tried?” Satal belted back in a raised voice. She took a moment to settle herself back before adding, “He sees only the interest of the Inner Valleys, and the politics of power. He doesn’t care for our people as a whole. Which is why your news has caused him to become irrational and paranoid.”

She is wrong,” Whispered Sheilak in Jeremy’s mind.

“What?” the youth replied, started by her sudden speech.

Weaver is incorrect. Merkot is not moving in response to the actions of the Old Fox.

“He’s not, then what is making him act this way?” Jeremy’s face drained of color as Sheilok responded to Jeremy’s question. As she spoke, however, the color returned and a grin rode his lips outward.

Satal noticed the faraway look which had come over Jeremy’s and called him back to the conversation.

“Something you wish to add, young man?”

“It’s Sheilak. She says you’re wrong about Merkot.”

“Why is that, lad?” chimed in Walter as the three adults leaned in toward the youth.

“Because he’d already planned to start a war between the Inner Valleys and the outer settlements. Whatever he found in Satchwin Crevasse told him to do it.”

“What did he find there, Jeremy?”

Jeremy shook his head. “I’m sorry, Madam President, but Sheilak doesn’t know, the Guardians can’t get near the crevasse. All she knows is, he began making plans for his war shortly after he discovered something deep in it’s depths.”

“And did Sheilak say anything else we might find of interest?”

“Yes. She said Merkot’s plans were the reason the Guardians opened the evercoal deposit out near Highcliff. It was the only way to get Walter to come back from exile.”