The characters decided they wanted to take their time on the Woodhall road this week, but not so much that it throws off my map for the rest of the story. Let’s unpack.
The empty plateau
The reason the plateau is empty was mentioned in last week’s unpacking, but what’s fascinating about it’s emptiness is it remained so. Jeremy is absolutely correct, the people of The Valleys do not let potentially useful land go to waste. People have travelled deep into the jungles East of Water Gap despite the very real danger of encountering hunting Guardians. Even the stories of homestead massacres have not kept the people from continued their movement East.
So why would this plateau, with it’s close proximity to a well-maintained road and an abundance of natural resources, remain so empty? The truth is, it’s designed to creep people out. The Um healers are actively heightening the anxiety of people on the Plateau in an effort to ensure that region remains clear.
Until Jeremy pointed it out, however, no one had ever questioned its curious status.
The pride of Woodhall
Woodhall was the first outer settlement, and the Senate did only release its founders to settle beyond Mount Gateway because they were certain they’d all be killed. Their success, despite a complete lack of support from the Inner Valleys, has led the people of that town to be extremely independent. As the outer settlements grew Woodhall became their unofficial capital, despite it’s relatively remote location to the far South of out of the population. This position of power has only served to increase the tension between Woodhall and their Inner Valley rivals.
Having now moved beyond the Inner Valleys, Jeremy’s color vision is being restored to it’s former acute state. The purple haze over the core settlements remains a concern, but what he sees on the plateau is more immediately interesting.
The Um healers are actively watching the road to Woodhall, and even have a secret post by which the road can be monitored. Jeremy sees this post only because of his abilities as a Prismatic, and there are good reasons why its been kept hidden. The residents of Woodhall, for instance, would lose all composure if it were reveled to them. After all, as far as they’re concerned, they are the only people South of Mount Gateway — to the people of Woodhall, an observation post could only be about them. They’d be wrong to assume this, but it’s what they would assume.
The color Jeremy sees up on the mountain’s peak, however, is telling. It is brown, the color of loyalty and faithfulness. Whatever the Um healers are up to on Mount Gateway, they are doing it for the benefit of everyone.
The characters’ reaction to the Mount Gateway observation post seem to be a bit strong.
Talum, who keeps many secrets himself, is particularly put off. Having been a guard for many years he can’t believe anything would be done to protect The Valleys without the guards being part of the process. Michael, for similar reasons, feels much the same way.
Walter, on the other hand, is nothing but frustrated with the entirety of their society. He’d only been drug back into his homeland because of a crisis in Highcliff and, while he’s again taken on the mantle of Senator rather well, he still has misgivings about how The Valleys operate. Seeing yet another secret unfolded in front of him only adds to his inner-struggles. Walter hates the secrets which the various sects in The Valleys keep from one another. He feels they are preventing them from growing as a people and, it so happens, he’s not incorrect. In the end, Jeremy was able to persuade Walter to travel South because the old Senator believes he might finally find some answers to the gaping holes in his people’s history.
What Walter doesn’t know is the divisions he finds so restrictive were deliberately set up. The earliest settlers in The Valleys worked hard with the Guardians to prevent their new home from becoming too noticeable.