Fiction Tuesday – Alone in the light

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 CoverJeremy awoke to find his head laid on a soft pillow. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the brilliance of the light pouring from the crystalline ceiling of his room, and as he blinked he began to recall where he was.

Michael and Terrin had returned shortly before midnight, adorned in the blue and silver uniforms of Presidential guards. They told they group their tale of being processed into their new roles, and also the reunion Michael had with his family after his unexpected detour. Fascinated as he was his friend’s stories, Jeremy’s eyes had begun to droop and he’d been ordered to his room by Ama. He had fallen into bed without undressing and was asleep shortly after his body sunk into the soft mattress, though at some point during the night someone had covered him with a blanket.

Feeling noticeably refreshed, Jeremy rose from his bed and donned a robe which had been laid out near his bed. He opened the door and entered into the common room of their shared suite. He found the space oddly silent, if not for the gentle snores emanating from one of the rooms he might even have though he’d been left alone.

“Ah, Jeremy, I was hoping to get to chat with you before the others awoke.”

Jeremy jumped, startled by unexpected voice. When he collected himself he turned toward its source and found President Satal seated in a room furnished with a large table. Laid out on it’s surface was a massive breakfast of breads, fruits, cakes, and various jams and jellies. As soon as he spied the bread Jeremey understood what had woken him, the aroma of the fresh loaves was making his stomach grumble.

Satal smiled warmly and gestured to a chair on her right. “I’m sorry if I startled you. Please, join me.”

Jeremy nodded and entered the room. Upon taking seat offered by Satal, the president offered Jeremy a plate and motioned to the food.

“You might as well eat the bread while it’s still warm.” Holding up a jar of rose-colored jelly she added, “Try the mintberry, it’s my favorite for breakfast.”

Jeremy nodded and sliced himself a piece of a golden brown bread. Accepting the offered jelly, he smeared the substance on his slice. His sinuses were cleared almost instantly and Jeremy felt suddenly awake.

Satal smiled again as Jeremy’s eyes widened. “Now you know why I like this for breakfast. It wakes you up even better than coffee. And without jitters, I might add.”

Jeremy, despite his uncertainty about Satal’s motives, grinned. “I certainly do feel awake.”

“Wonderful. Now, I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here so early.”

Jeremy shrugged and thought it best to answer truthfully. “I was, actually.”

Satal grinned and, to Jeremy’s relief, the smile reached into her eyes. There was a fondness in her gaze which Jeremy found comforting.

“You’re very much like Walter, Jeremy. Brilliantly honest in a way which frustrates politicians like myself.”

“What do you mean?” replied Jeremy, hoping he’d not given offense.

“Politicians are used to having people consider every word they utter before they speak it. Sadly, this often means what is spoken to us is often a projection of a person’s best self, as opposed to the truth – which is something from which we tend to shy away.” Noticing the quizzical look in Jeremy’s eyes she added, “Despite our innate class in The Valleys, Jeremy, we serve at the will of the people. We politicians tend to feel too much truth can be bad for career prospects.”

“And do you believe this?”

Satal chuckled. “Oh Jeremy, I know it. It takes a rare character who is able to contain bold truth, compassion, and political insight in one package. Walter is the only one I’ve ever seen truly pull it off.” Satal sipped a dark liquid from a mug set before her. “Though I must admit Senator Kaitlyn comes close, as do you.”

Jeremy cocked his head. “Is that a compliment?”

“Yes it is!” Satal beamed. “You must understand, Jeremy. Truth without compassion is little more than manipulation. But truth which has compassion but lacks political insight is naiveté. It telegraphs it’s moves in a way which assures it will be swallowed up by it’s political enemies.”

“And compassion with political insight but not truth?”

Satal gave Jeremy an approving appraisal before she answered. “That, Jeremy, is folly.”

“And all three together?”

Again, Satal sipped from her mug. “The three together are wisdom. It’s something Walter has by his very nature, and something I must try very hard to develop. It’s wisdom which leads me here this morning, in fact.”

“How so?”

“Today, Jeremy, you will be introduced to the Senate. I wish to do so in as wise a manner as possible.”

Jeremy glanced toward the open threshold of the breakfast room, suddenly hoping one of his friends would awake.

“Relax, Jeremy. This is a plan Walter has already agreed upon.”

“Oh,” sighed Jeremy, suddenly relaxing. “OK.”

Satal nodded. “Good. Now, I won’t bore you with all the details, but by the end of today you will be officially apprenticed to Walter, and Merkot will have his stranglehold on the Guards broken.”

Jeremy wasn’t sure how the two goals were related, but nodded in agreement anyway.

“But, as we do so, I must ask you two favors.”

“What?” replied Jeremy, cocking his head once more.

“First, it’s about your… ‘special friend.’ You must ask her not make her presence known during these proceedings.”

“If you say so.”

Satal closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, Jeremy, you misunderstand. I am reasonably certain Merkot has some knowledge of your… friend’s… presence. He may very well attempt to bait her into appearing. This must not happen.”

“Why not?”

“Because people’s prejudices are difficult to overcome and it would undermine Walter at an extremely difficult juncture. Please ask her to remain hidden.”

The crystal Jeremy wore suddenly became icy cold. He received an impression Sheilak understood the necessity of Satal’s request, but was not pleased by it.

Nevertheless, Jermey nodded. “OK. And the second favor?”

“We are introducing you as a pathfinder only. It would be best for all involved if the wider senate was unaware of your more… distinguished background.”

Jeremy locked his gaze with Satal’s in silence for several moment. Finally, as the president turned her head and blinked, he spoke.

“That’s twice I’ve noticed you fishing for the most proper word to use.”

“A good observation.”

“Does that me the words you’re using aren’t true?”

Satal coughed on the liquid she was sipping from her mug, clearing her throat repeatedly as she attempted to catch her breath. Just as she was settling down to respond, however, a new voice called in from the threshold.

“Well, Satal, it looks like the lad’s got you sized up pretty well.”

Jeremy turned his head to see Walter leaning against the threshold. A smile of glee creeping across his face.

Satal recovered enough to retort, “I would have expected nothing less from your apprentice, Walter. Though perhaps you could teach him to balance his mix somewhat. He seems to lean heavily on truth.”

“It’s all the lad knows, Satal, and I think we’ll just leave him to it. Maybe it’s time for the light of truth to clean out the cobwebs around these parts, after all.”

Satal smiled, but Jeremy could tell she was not pleased with Walter as he sat down and began preparing his breakfast plate.

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