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!” burst Ama as she rushed to his side and knelt down. “Walter, what happened?”
“Easy Meddle. The lad’s all right. He’s had a bit of a jolt.”
“Can’t leave you in charge for any length of time. Can we, Old Fox?” cracked a voice near the door. Walter followed the sound back to it’s source, and frowned as he discovered Tollen leaning against the door frame.
“Nor can I put you off my scent, it seems. What are yo doing here, Tollen?”
“Oh it’s amazing, truly a change in the the very fabric of things in The Valleys. Who would have ever thought the Congress of Healers would be working with The Seekers? These are fascinating times, indeed. I a so very glad to be her to witness them.”
“Talum?” Growled Walter.
“Shut up,” replied Tollen and Walter in unison. Much to the mutual annoyance of both men.
“Walter, you can bark at Talum later. Help me get Jeremy up.”
“Ama, I’m fine, really,” Jeremy croaked as he attempted to gently resist Ama’s assistance. “I just passed out.”
Ama’s eyes flared a warning to Jeremy, and he instantly stopped struggling. “You ‘just passed out.’ Yes, I’m certain that’s a diagnosis with which any healer would be content.” Turning her gaze to Talum she asked, “Isn’t that correct, Talum?”
Talum, already stung by Tollen and Walter’s rebuke, looked decidedly panicked by Ama’s sudden attention. Crossing his arms he stammered, “Well, that is to say, there are many different causes one might have for passing out.”
“There, you see Jeremy? It could be any number of causes which led to your faint. Many of which are anything but benign. Now allow me to help you up and I will sit you on a chair while I examine you.”
Jeremy’s gaze dropped. “Yes Ama.”
She led Jeremy to a cushioned arm chair and settled him into it. He sank down into its comfort, as Ama loomed over him.
“It could just be exhaustion, we’ve not been sleeping much. And you are carrying more stress than any of us. Hold your your right hand.”
Jeremy complied as Ama reached into her satchel and pulled out a flat, semi-translucent, stone. It seemed to glow with a pale yellow light. She brought it to Jeremy’s hand and said, “Palm up, please, Jeremy.” Jeremy flipped his hand over and Ama dropped the stone in the center of his palm. The stone was very warm but not unpleasantly so. To Jeremy’s surprise, a tingling sensation began to flow up his arm, and expanded throughout his entire body. The sensation wasn’t uncomfortable, but it did spark Jeremy’s curiosity.
“What is this, Ama?”
“Hush, child,” she replied, never taking her eyes of the stone.
Jeremy followed her gaze back to the stone in his palm,and noticed the light shifting ever so slightly to a blueish hue. Ama sighed and snatched the stone from Jeremy’s palm, depositing it back into her satchel.
“You don’t have a fever. In fact, your body temperature is slightly below what I’d consider normal.”
“Below?” Asked Tollen. “Why on earth would that be?”
“I have no idea Tollen, some people have a lower body temperature than most others, but not enough to shift the color of the thermal stone as it just did. I have some suspicions, but nothing more.”
“But you think it might have something to do with his Guardian friend.”
Walter’s eyes opened wide. He shared a brief, silent, exchange with Ama before he turned to Tollen. “What do you know of his ‘Guardian friend,’ Tollen?”
“Oh, we didn’t tell you? Well of course we didn’t tell you, we haven’t a chance yet. The Seekers know quite a bit about the Guardians, Walter. It’s remarkable. My research could have been done in half the time if they’d allowed me to study their archives. Of course, then I’d have had to know about their archives to ask in the first place. And I didn’t, so I couldn’t have asked.”
Walter was already rubbing his temples, “Talum.”
“I will stop talking now, Walter,” replied Talum in a rare demonstration of social awareness.
Walter stopped rubbing his temples and turned to doorway where Tollen was still leaning. “So, you knew about the Guardians?”
Tollen shrugged and strode over to Jeremy, crossing in front of an increasingly annoyed Walter. He reached done toward Jeremy’s neck. Shocked by Tollen’s movement, Jeremy remained still as Tollen grasped the string around his neck. Gently, the old guard fished the crystal away from Jeremy’s breast and cradled it in his hands.
“We had many suspicions about their true nature, yes,” he finally spoke. A look of awe washed over his features as he continued, “You have to understand, The Seekers look into our past, there’s a lot about the legends our people wrongly call ‘shadestalkers’ which don’t add up.”
Tollen released the crystal and stood upright, turning toward Walter he replied, “Such as, ‘Why they don’t simply wipe us out?’ That was our first question, and Seekers asked it over a century ago. I mean, if our legends are correct, then we’re nothing but an invasive species. We colonize their territory and expand and expand and expand.”
“And there’s been attacks on new settlements, Tollen. Maybe they do see us as an invasive species.” Jeremy’s crystal grew cold, Sheilak was not pleased by Walter’s words.
Tollen, however, only shook his head. “Maybe there have been a few isolated attacks when people were far from their homes, or when they first march into an area far removed from the rest of our settlements. But mostly these are ‘one and done.’ There’s one attack. And it can be brutal, don’t misunderstand, but then… nothing. Why?”
“Because the evertorches keep them away?”
Tollen breathed a quiet chuckle, “We both know that isn’t true.”
“Yes, Old Fox, we do. Stop playing ignorant with me. We know the Guardians live in evercoal, and thrive in our evertorches. We also know the further they get from either source, the more monstrous they become. And that’s how they hunt. Which is why when they encounter humans expanding outward they back away.”
“And how do you know this?”
Tollen grinned. “We have access to the Presidential archives.”
Walter’s mouth dropped open. “You… what?”
“The first seekers were a presidential commission. They were granted access to the deep archives, and a special entry point so people wouldn’t see them coming and going. The commission was eventually disbanded, and the deep archives were sealed off, but the president who ordered them sealed ‘forgot’ to tell the worker about our special entrance.”
“I want to go there.”
Tollen frowned and shook his head, “Not a chance, Old Fox.”
Walter’s lips tightened to a line as he spat out a single word, “Why?”
“Because, Walter, for all your virtues you aren’t a Seeker. For Valley’s Sake, most Seekers don’t even know about this secret. If I let anyone in there, and that’s a rather large ‘if,’ it’ll be Talum.”
“You’d let Talum down there?”
Talum grinned manically “Me? Oh, I’d be delighted. With my research and the documents in the archives I might be able to bring humans and Guardians back together at last!”
The torches in the room grew dark as the crystal at Jeremy’s breast flared in shadow.
“There is no time, we must begin our journey.”
Everyone in the room was silent as the honey glow of the evertorches filled the room once more. Tollen was the first to react as a grin beamed from his face. “Nice to meet you too, Sheilak.”