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
Jeremy felt himself falling and landed roughly on to hard ground. His impact was so forceful he assumed he must be gravely injured, but to his surprise his body was free of pain. Standing, he found himself on a rocky out-cropping, high above a plain below. In the distance he could see an expansive body of water, pulsing in the light of the full moon. The appearance of the moon was bright, but it glowed strangely – as though it was pouring though a dense cloud or fog.
Rising out of the plain was a city, the likes of which Jeremy had not seen in The Valleys. Several massive towers stood in its center, dominating the landscape with their presence. The city seemed to flow out from the towers, spreading into buildings which grew progressively shorter the further they were removed from the center.
While Jeremy was awed by the sight, he also noticed it’s derelict condition. Under the honey-glow of the city’s many evertorches he could see how the buildings were beginning to crumble. The central towers, in particular, appeared to have suffered great damage. Seeing a city so huge, Jeremy expected to hear the sounds of life echoing up even to his lofty perch. Instead, only silence emanated from the streets below.
“I’m proud of you, son.”
Startled from his observations, Jeremy spun around to discover the source of the voice. He quickly identified a tall man, dressed in slacks and a comfortable shirt – attire he’d discarded similar clothes his first night in The Valleys. Seeing Jeremy’s face, the man smiled.
“You’ve come so far.”
Jeremy gazed into the man’s eyes and absorbed his smile. Suddenly, he understood who was addressing him, “Father?”
The man’s smile broadened, but he said nothing.
“How did I get here? The last thing I remember Walter was interrogating Sheilak in our rooms. Father, where are we?”
Jeremy’s father’s eyes softened and his smile dimmed somewhat. “You Jeremy, are still in those rooms with Walter and your living Guardian. But something must have triggered your memory and brought you deep into your mind. I’m a memory fragment of your father, part of his personality given to you and meant to guide you as you complete your mission.”
Jeremy’s heart fell. “You’re not really my father?”
The man sighed. “It’s complicated, son. But I am part of your father, the part I sent with you.”
“But where are we?”
The memory of Jeremy’s father pointed toward the plain as he spoke. “That, Jeremy, is the first city of our people. Long since abandoned and left to decay.”
“What’s it’s name?”
“We don’t speak it,” the memory replied. “It creates too much sorrow over what’s been lost. We rarely even come to look upon the ruins. The pain is too great.”
Memory of his father or not, Jeremy was becoming frustrated. “Fine. If you can’t tell me any more about this place, how about telling me why I’m here in my head right now? I’ve been frightened, confused, and chased around The Valleys and I have no idea what I’m doing here!”
To Jeremy’s increased frustration, the man chuckled softly at Jeremy’s demands.
“I don’t think there’s anything funny in what I just said.”
The memory’s smile faded, but not completely. “Oh, son, you’re correct. There isn’t anything funny in what you said. It’s the way you said it. I suddenly see your grandfather in you, as I always knew he was.”
The memory smiled as though he assumed he’d just given Jeremy a compliment. But the youth was growing tired of revelations which reminded him how little he actually remembered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you were the perfect person to send on your mission. I knew you had just enough stubbornness to succeed and enough wisdom to survive.”
“Great, I’ve stayed alive. Succeed at what?”
The memory frowned at Jeremy’s demand.
“What? What did I say?”
“You’ve never addressed me with such harshness before.”
“I’ve never addressed you at all. You’re not my father, you’re a memory of him. That’s all. And even if you were my father, I don’t remember anything about my past. Remember? So sorry if I’m getting a little upset at my own mind keeping secrets from me! Now tell me, succeed at what?”
The memory stared a Jeremy blankly for several beats, but just as he thought his father’s memory might refuse to answer he nodded curtly. “I understand, son. But please know, I am your father, I left this bit of me in your own memory. All my memories, all my thoughts, all my words. Are words I would speak were I physically present with you.”
Sadness welled up in Jeremy at these words. His mind couldn’t remember his father, but his heart felt the pain he’d caused someone dear to him. Tears formed in his eyes as he said, “I’m sorry.”
“You shouldn’t be, I cannot possibly understand what you’ve been through. Just know. I am proud of you.”
Jeremy nodded, but said nothing.
“You’re mission, son, was to make contact with the living Guardians, and any healers you could find, and return to this place with any who were willing to come.”
“Because the treaty has been broken, and death is on the way.”
“So what good will bringing a Guardian and a few healers to this place do?”
The memory of Jeremy’s father opened his mouth to answer, but winced in pain and recoiled as if struck by a blow.
The memory raised his hand. “It’s all right. Your bond-mate is trying to push me back. She’s not wrong to do so, either. If you were in any place but The Ravine my speaking with you would be incredibly dangerous.” He recoiled again and fell to his knees.
“Why? Why is it dangerous?”
“Because your memories are linked to your powers, and when they fully manifest they can be tracked!” gasped the memory.
“Tracked by who?” cried Jeremy as he ran to the image of his father.
“By those who want us all dead, the Purity.”
His father’s hand reached up and cupped Jeremy’s cheek. Tears of love formed in his eyes as he again winced in pain. “It’s not important right now. We don’t have much time and you won’t remember this conversation when you awake. But be ready.”
His father cried out again and laid back. Jeremy knelt and rested his father’s head on his lap. “Ready for what?”
“You will feel a pull to go South. You won’t remember me saying this, but you mustn’t resist it. It’s time.”
“Time for what?”
“Time to come home.”
“Not yet!” cried a voice from above. Jeremy raised his eyes and saw a being of light hovering overhead. He’d never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
The being didn’t respond. Instead, it gazed down upon the memory of Jeremy’s father as the image began to fade.
“I am sorry,” the being said. “It is too dangerous.”
“He must know,” gasped the memory.
“Yes, but not yet.”
“It’s too late to save them,” whispered the memory with sadness in his voice.
The being landed gently and knelt next to Jeremy. She placed a hand on the memory’s forehead and said, “That remains to be seen.”
With that, the memory of Jeremy’s father faded away and Sheilak placed both her hands on Jeremy’s temples. Before Jeremy could resist, Sheilak addressed him, “I’m sorry, bond-mate. These memories will return, but now I must take them.”
Jeremy awoke with a gasp of breath. He couldn’t remember what he dreamed, but he knew he had dreamed. In his mind were vague images of high towers, and a sadness he couldn’t explain.
“Well, lad, you certainly know how to give a fright. I’ll hand you that.”
Jeremy grinned slightly, but unenthusiastically. “I’m all right, thanks.”
Walter clapped Jeremy on the back and helped him to his feet as Sheilak spoke.
“Your sorrow will fade. It is nearly time.”