I’ve been striving to allow Satal’s humanity to be presented whenever the character appears. For the most part I’ve succeeded, but we have yet to see any real cracks in her political armor. Until, that is, this section. Let’s unpack.
All accounted for?
Ama and Talum woke up earlier and departed for the Hall of Healers. We’ll meet up with them again down in the Senate chamber. Michael and Terrin have returned to the picture, though I’m getting frustrated with all these situations where the two guards find themselves sidelined. Terrin has always been quiet, but Michael needs to be more outspoken. He’ll get his chance, soon. Remember, Michael is a Seeker.
The argument between Satal and Walter is a struggle between two people who know each other very well, and the years of Walter’s exile has done little to reduce that familiarity. When Satal asserts her love for Riverside, despite the harmful impacts some of her official policies have had on the town, Walter can’t help but poke what he perceives as a glaring hole.
Satal, does want to hold on to power, she’ll never deny it. But she also believes she’s the best chance for The Valleys to avoid a civil conflict of devastating proportions. Her game is always long, and she never confronted Merkot because she never wanted the Senator to have even a hint of a path to the presidency. She believed, eventually, Merkot would extend himself and damage his base of power. So she acceded to some of his demands, but until the blockade measures she also made sure none of them were funded enough to be truly effective. This is why smuggling remains such a lucrative enterprise in The Valleys, Satal knows the transport of goods is vital to the economy, but the protectionists from some powerful Inner Valley families only have a desire to hold their power for the moment. Thus, they attack anything they perceived as a threat, even though in doing so they harm themselves as much as anyone. She’s performed a difficult balancing act and has won few friends among the common population because of it. Common folks tend to see her as a callous tyrant, but she has quietly worked behind the scenes to open up avenues where prosperity could expand.
Unfortunately, her long game strategy with Merkot has not worked out like she hoped. She exaggerated when she said she had the votes to keep Merkot in check. In fact, before Walter appeared with his cargo she was afraid her time in office was coming to an end. And with it, hope for peace in The Valleys. This fear is what caused her to lash out at Walter the way she does. Deep down, she believes she’s failed.
Walter says he’s sorry for going into his exile, even as he affirms Satal for carrying a great burden. This does not mean he agrees with the strategy Satal pursued, only that he understands it. In fact, Walter also believes Satal has failed to lead The Valleys away from the brink of collapse. But is forced to admit she did try to do so. He is also coming to understand his self-exile meant he hadn’t.
When Walter saw the first load of evercoal carried into Highcliff he saw a chance to move from inaction and once again become part of the struggle for a better future. But since he’s been back in The Inner Valleys he’s feared his renewed conviction was too late to make a difference. In his moment of struggle, Walter knows he needs friends to help him turn his people from disintegration and war. This is why he poked Satal as hard as he did. Walter needed to see how much of his old friend was still inside Satal’s political facade. She was never an idealist like him, but he always knew where her heart was.
Satal also let a bit of interesting information drop in their final exchange. What other idealists left the Senate? Kaitlyn is one, certainly, but Satal seems to be referring to a general exodus. Are there more out there?