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
Later, Jeremy didn’t recall much of the next several months spent in the Ravine. Seven days after Walter’s initial petition to have The Coastlands brought under the Senate’s jurisdiction, the petition was approved in a narrow vote. Walter was seated as the first Senator from Highcliff, and Jeremy as his junior Representative. Messengers were sent to Highcliff immediately, but the treacherous paths out to the settlement meant the celebratory news would be forced to crawl its way out to The Valley’s newest citizens.
Walter’s appointment swung the balance of the Senate decidedly toward the outer settlements, as a number of Inner Valleys Senators had been waiting for a moment to shift from Merkot’s domination. While Walter would often voice the strategies he and his fellow Senators developed to counter Merkot’s abuses, Jeremy noticed Kaitlyn was the actual leader of the political opposition. Her skill, combined with her idealism, made her an excellent leader. And she handled her sudden political strength with grace and humility. One evening, after a particularly lengthy strategy session, Walter put his arms around Jeremy’s shoulders and smiled. “Jeremy. Kaitlyn can’t stand the very sight of me, but I can’t help but think she’s one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
During days when the Senate was actually in Session, which seemed to be around two out of every five, Jeremy was expected to sit in on the meetings with his fellow Representatives. In this role he was primarily supposed sit and observe, offering debate only in the event of a tie in the Senate. At first, Jeremy found it overwhelming. Observing the Senate meant more than paying attention to what was being said. Who spoke in a given debate, and in what order, was often more important than the actual content of a Senator’s words. Keeping the locations and names together was a great struggle for Jeremy, but after three weeks he began to feel more comfortable in his new role.
When the Senate wasn’t in session, and he wasn’t required to be in the meetings which his position seemed to continually demand, Jeremy explored The Ravine’s many wonders. Michael and Terrin accompanied him on these explorations and became his closest companions during his sojourn in The Valley’s heart. Merkot hadn’t again approached the youth, nor had he made any overt moves against either him or his companions, but Satal wasn’t taking any chances. During his explorations Jeremy was introduced to Michael’s wife, who was as friendly and comfortable a host as Jeremy could remember experiencing.
Terrin’s family, however, remained in Riverside. He wasn’t taking any chances with their well-being. Jeremy’s younger body-guard had been out to visit several times during his Sojourn, but he always returned when his leave was up. When Jeremy once asked him if he just wanted to bring his wife to The Ravine, or go and be with his family in Riverside, Terrin shook his head. “No, Jeremy. I have a duty to do which President Satal has entrusted to me. So I won’t go there. And my wife doesn’t want to live in The Ravine so she’d never come even if I asked her. Until The President releases me, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
As much as Jeremy would have liked Terrin to be permanently reunited with his family, he couldn’t lie and say he wasn’t relieved Terrin wouldn’t consider moving to Riverside full-time. Two weeks after Walter was officially seated in the Senate Ama had returned to Water Gap. She had received the blessing to pass on her practice formally to Ami, but the process had kept her away from The Ravine for almost two months. Tollen accompanied her upon her departure, and Jeremy found he even missed the grizzled retired guard. Much to his annoyance, however, Talum bluntly refused to depart from Jeremy’s side.
“You’re the first Prismatic anyone has seen in centuries, Jeremy! And the Guardians have taken a liking to you! I need to be here to document your journey, no matter where it takes you!”
It wasn’t that Jeremy disliked Talum, the absent-minded healer was a kind and caring person. But he hated being a research subject. In private session after private session, set up by Satal herself, Talum attempted to draw from Jeremy more of his supposed “Prismatic Abilities.” None emerged, but the Inner Valleys continued to blindingly purple when ever Jeremy extended his color sight. Much as this concerned him, Jeremy couldn’t bring himself to tell either Talum or Walter. Besides, things in The Ravine had become so ordinary, Merkot’s near ascension to power already forgotten by most people as trade opened up once more.
Sheilak was spending a good deal of time with her family, sometimes missing for days at a time. Whenever Jeremy asked her what she did when she was gone she would only reply, “Preparing.” She refused to elaborate more, which was making Jeremy increasingly frustrated. He had several arguments about this with the Guardian, which often proceeded her next disappearance. Jeremy felt strangely empty when her presence was gone. He wasn’t sure he liked that.
Then, one day, the pause of Jeremy’s sojourn seemed to come to an end. He’d returned home from a strategy session early because of a headache and was just about to lie down on the couch in he and Walter’s chambers when their door burst open and the old Senator burst in to the room. Kaitlyn followed him, as well as the Senator from Woodhall whose name Jeremy was having difficulty remembering.
“Kaitlyn, I know this gets us ‘more than what we want,’ that’s what worries me!”
“Walter, calm down, it’s a good solution. It’s been months since Highcliff has been brought into the Senate and finding the means to extend our road network all the way out to The Coastlands is proving very difficult. It’s a jungle past Plantation, you know that.”
“I know. But if Merkot wants this, and he’s courting favor from Riverside to sweeten the pot, this can not be good.”
“Old Fox,” chimed in the Woodhall Senator. “You know High Cliff is crying for a way to transport their evercoal to market. People there are growing increasingly frustrated with the situation. And can you blame them?”
“No, Steph, I can’t. But, something isn’t right here.”
“Right with what, Walter?” said Jeremy, who revealed himself by sitting up on the couch.
“What? Oh, sorry Lad. How’s the headache?”
“Throbbing, but your argument is a wonderful distraction. What’s Senator Merkot up to?”
“Well,” Kaitlyn cut-in. “Merkot has come up with a novel way to solve the evercoal transport problems. Novel, and yet simple.”
“What’s the idea?”
Walter sighed in frustration. “Well, lad. He’s decided to propose finishing Plantation’s Boulevard extension all the way to the bay not too far from where the road ends.”
“And what good does that do?”
“Not much, unless you put something at the spot where the road ends,” answered Steph.
“Merkot wants to build a port, and give Riverside sailers the contract to ship materials between the port and High Cliff.”
“Wow,” pondered Jeremy. “That’s actually pretty smart.”
“I know. That’s what worries me!”
As Walter threw his hands upward in frustration he suddenly felt the now-familiar sensation of Sheilak’s return to his communication crystal.
“Welcome back,” he thought. “I’m sorry we fought, but did you hear what Walter…”
“We must depart. Soon,” Sheilak cut him off. “It is time.” And with that, Jeremy’s sojourn came to an end.