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
It took nearly five days after Ama’s return to finish preparations for their journey. On the second day after those preparations began much of the Senate returned for several days of late-winter hearings to prepare for the Spring session. For three days Jeremy kept up appearances by attending meetings for the various committees to which he’d been assigned.
Given his impending journey southward it was already difficult for the young representative to pay attention to the proceedings, but Sheilak was adding to his struggles. During meetings she would endlessly buzz in Jeremy’s mind, “We must make haste, it’s time to depart.”
No matter how many times Jeremy pointed out the necessity of properly preparing to the Guardian, she wouldn’t budge. Finally, mentally exhausted by her constant pressure, he ordered, “Sheilak, I’m not the one in charge, go bug Ama or Walter. They’re the ones who get to say when we’ll be leaving!”
Jeremy was shocked when Sheilak responded, “Then I will tell them as well.”
With that thought ringing through his mind, he felt the presence of the Guardian lift from his consciousness. So relieved was he to have his mind quiet for the first time in several days, Jeremy didn’t spend much thought wondering where his friend had gone. That night, however, Walter had come over to Jeremy in a quiet corner of the Senate commissary and slammed a mug of ale down on his table, splashing the notes Jeremy had been working on. The Senator sat down with a grunt and stared at his protege with weary eyes.
“Lad, why in all The Valleys would you sick that meddlesome Guardian on me and Ama? She’s been going back and forth between the two of us for the last six hours telling us we had to leave! I was wincing so much during my meeting with Kaitlyn I think she believes I’m hiding some terrible illness!”
With that, Walter picked up his mug and took a long drink. Jeremy avoided his friend’s glaring eyes as he attempted to clean the spilled ale off his notes before the ink began to run.
“Walter, I’m so sorry. She’s been pestering me for two days straight and wouldn’t accept ‘not yet’ for an answer. This afternoon I finally told her it wasn’t up to me and that only you and Ama could say when we left. I never thought she’d actually go and bother you!”
“You mean you’ve been putting up with that nonsense for two whole days and didn’t start screaming? Lad, you’re a stronger man than I.”
“I don’t know about that, Walter. I’ve got Talum’s crystal, after all, and that makes speaking with Sheilak a lot easier.” He closed his eyes for a moment before adding, “She’s pestering Ama right now, isn’t she?”
“How else do you think I had the proper frame of mind to come down and enjoy some good ale in peace? I have to warn you, Meddle is not in a good mood.”
“I can imagine. I’ll tell Sheilak to back off and keep out of Ama’s hair for a day or so while she calms down.”
“Well, lad, that’ll be hard to do, seeing as how we’re leaving tomorrow morning.”
Jeremy stood up excitedly and began gathering his notes. “Really? I’ve got to get these back to the office of Representatives and pack!”
“That’s probably a good idea, lad,” replied Walter as he lifted his mug to take another drink.
Before departing, Jeremy looked at his friend and wrinkled his brow in thought. “Walter, if you knew we were leaving tomorrow why didn’t you just tell Sheilak that? She would have left both you and Ama alone!”
Walter chuckled into his mug and then lowered it to the table. “Lad, Sheilak might be your Guardian friend but pestering me is not the way to get me to move. I’d never give her the satisfaction.”
Jeremy then departed, shaking his head and wondering why people had to be so stubborn.
The next morning Terrin and Michael woke Jeremy from his slumber and waited while he got dressed. They then led the youth to the public lifts where Walter, Tollen, Ama, and Talum waited.
As he approached his friends Jeremy was overcome with a sudden moment of panic. “Wait, where’s my back,” he asked Michael as they approached their friends.
Terrin chuckled at his young friend’s distress. “It’s OK Jeremy. Walter had all our packs taken up to our horses last night after you went to bed.”
Before Jeremy could reply a hand clap shocked him into attention. “Well, lad, it’s nice you and your bodyguards could join us.” Looking around at the group he added, “I guess we ought to get going.”
With that he pushed the lift call button, and shortly thereafter the doors opened to the welcome the party. They filed in silently, not wishing to disturb the morning quiet any more than they already had. Jeremy, however, could barely contain his excitement. As much as he enjoyed the sights and pace of life in The Ravine, he missed the open air and sky. Every time he’d ascended from his deep habitat he felt almost as through he were being born anew.
The ride passed in silence for several minutes, ending only when the car came to a gentle halt at The Ravine’s upper-most floor and the doors opened. Much to everyone’s shock, they were greeted by troop of guards wearing the Presidential uniform. In the center of their protective circle was a figure Jeremy had not expected to see.
“So you’ve come to see us off, Satal?”
“That I have, Old Fox.”
She held out her hand. Walter took it and smiled faintly. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, keep an eye on Merkot.”
A smirk edged across her face. “Just try to make this exodus a bit shorter than your last, Old Fox. The Valleys need you. And as for Merkot, in light of your absence, I’ve decided to join him on his trip out to the new port. Is that enough of an eye for you?”
The crystal grew cold against Jeremy’s chest, and Sheilak didn’t even need to encourage him to protest as he cried out, “No, Madam President, you can’t go there!”
Startled, Satal turned to Jeremy. “What?”
The evertorches, already faint in the growing morning, dimmed noticeably as a shroud seemed to fall over the corridor. As darkness fell Sheilak’s voice rang out, “Beware the sea, do not go!”
The assembled guards paled at the Guardian’s sudden manifestation. Fear, and the exhaustion which often accompanied her sudden appearance, caused many of them to bend over as they attempted to steady themselves. Satal, while she did blanch slightly, remained both upright and with the presence of mind to demand, “What should I be afraid of, Guardian? What is coming?” But Sheilak would say no more.
Frustrated, the President turned back to Walter, “And you want me to put my trust in that?”
“I don’t know what to say, Satal. Sheilak is truly worried.”
“And because of her fears you’re off on a fool’s errand. I will take her words to heart, but in five days time I will be traveling with Merkot to the new port. We need to finalize the new trade routes between Highcliff and the rest of The Valleys, and I’m not trusting those negotiations to that snake.”
“*Take off your bonding crystal,” whispered Sheilak in Jeremy’s mind.
“Take off the crystal, and follow my instructions.”
Confused, Jeremy lifted the string which held his bonding crystal over his head and held it out in front of his body. His actions drew the eyes of all, as the crystal had begun to glow dimly with a pure white light.
“Jeremy,” Ama whispered. “What are you doing?”
“Now close your eyes and place your right hand under the crystal.”
Nodding to the silent voice, Jeremy did so. He held it there not two heartbeats when he heard several gasps, which were quickly followed by the sensation of a weight landing in his left hand. The youth opened his eyes and discovered he now held a second bonding crystal.
“Give this to Weaver and tell her to don it when she has need.”
Jeremy lowered his own crystal around his neck once more, and stepped forward toward the president. Several of the guards, apparently unnerved by what they’d just seen, actually stepped forward to block his path.
“It’s all right gentleman, let him pass.”
As the guards reluctantly stepped aside, Jeremy approached Satal and offered her the crystal. She accepted the gift hesitantly, finally plucking it from the youth’s fingers and asking, “What is this?”
“It’s a bonding crystal. Sheilak says ‘Weaver’ should don that when she has need.”
“A need for what? What’s this do?”
“It allows you to communicate with the Guardians, and calls one to you for bonding.”
Satal held the crystal out from her with some alarm, “Bonding?”
“It’s not what it sounds like. It just means learning. Bonding allows a guardian and human to share one another’s wisdom and strength.”
“And this is why you have such a… distinct… relationship with your friend?”
“I think so, yes.”
Satal held Jeremy’s eyes for a moment before unceremoniously pocketing the crystal. “Very well. I shall keep your advice in mind. And now, young sir, I believe it is time for you to go.”
With that the president swept past the group and entered the lift with her guards. Jeremy’s time in The Ravine had finally come to an end.