The View from the Wall
Emilia placed a delicate kiss on Valentine’s lips in the early morning mist. She stepped aboard the skiv with the Shadow Walker assigned to pilot her to Whitehall as Bianca joined Valentine’s side. Emilia watched the sisters on the shore as the skiv pulled away from the dock. This was the first time since their meeting that Emilia would be apart from Valentine for more than just a couple of hours. Her heart ached to leave, but the excitement she felt helped soothe that. She touched the medallion Valentine fixed to be their secret way to communicate while Emilia was gone. She slipped the chain it was attached to into her dress and turned to face the mist they were gliding through.
Going to Whitehall was very risky, but Emilia knew it was the best way she could help to rescue Antonio, Bianca’s fiancé, who was wrongly imprisoned in Whitehall’s jail. She could use her status as a Westminster Bride to gain access to parts of the city that Valentine and Bianca could not. That would be extremely valuable if they stood any chance to help Antonio. She kept reminding herself of this whenever doubt crept into her mind.
The skiv swerved out of the peacefulness of the Newlondon fog. Suddenly they were surrounded by barges, skivs and all manner of vessels that filled the waterway. As they cruised further up the river, Emilia expected the crowd to thin. Though, as the day wore on, the crowds only got worse. Even though the Polity had arrived a week ago now, people from all over the Globe were still swarming to get to Whitehall.
“If I pull any closer, it might cause suspicion.” The Shadow Walker skillfully piloted through the commotion and found a small bank to pull onto.
“It is no problem. I can walk the rest of the way in. Thank you for the safe passage.” Emilia stepped off the skiv onto the sandy shore.
The Shadow Walker nodded and reversed the skiv off of the bank. Emilia watched for a moment before he disappeared into the crowd on the river. She smoothed the wrinkles in her dress. She placed her hand on the spot the medallion rested beneath her dress, next to her heart. She said a silent prayer and walked toward the city gate.
Loud shouts filled the stagnant air in the archway of Whitehall’s main gate. Emilia’s knuckles were white as she tightened her grip on the small bag she carried with a few essentials. It was easier than lugging her grav-lift trunk through the crowd. It stayed in Newlondon in Valentine’s room along with the glass Mary’s Iris she had given Valentine and the cloak Valentine had given her. Pungent smells of soil and sweat assaulted her nose as she squeezed through the group of Finsbers pushing their way to the front of the line. She desperately longed for the sense of security the cloak gave her, but she knew it would be suspicious for a Westie to be seen wearing such a thing.
Emilia forced herself to remember the tips Valentine and Bianca gave her to help blend in. They decided on two things that Emilia needed to remember at all times, innocence and flattery. Bianca explained that maintaining an innocent facade could gain her sympathy and trust from even the most jaded of people. Valentine agreed with her sister, but insisted that flattery would be key to disarming any egotistical Haller. Innocence and flattery. It played over and over in Emilia’s mind like a mantra. She swallowed hard as she finally reached one of the kiosks set up to filter the newcomers to their desired destinations within the city.
“State your name and business in Whitehall.” The Haller guard did not look up from their comm tablet resting on the pedestal separating them.
“Emilia of Westminster. I am reporting as a new Bride.” Emilia sweetly batted her eyelashes.
“Ah, yes. Of course, you are.” The guard’s own brown eyes widened when they glimpsed the deep violet of Emilia’s irises. “Let me check.”
Emilia nodded and waited patiently. She looked around, painting an awestruck look on her face while she took the opportunity to get a closer look at the extra security Whitehall installed since the Polity arrived. Through the network of Shadow Walkers, Valentine learned that the gate was being monitored more closely for entry than usual, but the details were vague. From where she stood now, she could see four entrance kiosks and only one exit. The exit seemed quiet. The guard manning that station using some sort of handheld device ignoring most of the people milling through the exit.
“You’re overdue! Over a week late!” The guard’s nose scrunched, and their brow narrowed.
“I do apologize. With the rocket and the Polity, I’ve been a bit… lost.” Emilia bit her lip and looked down sheepishly.
“I’ll call for your escort now.” They frustratingly jabbed at the comm tablet.
“Oh, thank you. I heard the people of Whitehall were exceptionally kind. What a marvelous city this truly is!” Emilia smiled sweetly.
The guard flushed and nearly knocked the comm tablet off the pedestal when they caught Emilia’s gaze.
“Ah… my pleasure, miss. Whitehall is a treasure, isn’t it?” The guard’s chest puffed up with Haller pride.
“Oh truly. And you are the first gem I have met here.” Emilia let a blush paint her cheeks, happy that Bianca and Valentine’s tips were paying off.
The guard beamed at Emilia, failing to see the tall, elegant woman who approached the kiosk. Emilia admired the lilac shawl draped over her sleeveless white gown. The woman cleared her throat to break the guard’s reverie.
“Angelica will escort you now.” The guard’s goofy grin disappeared, and they motioned to the woman.
“Thank you again for your kindness.” Emilia gave the guard a slight bow and turned to Angelica, “Pleased to meet you. I am ready to see my temporary quarters.”
“Oh no, my dear child. We are going straight to the surgical suite.” Angelica turned, leading Emilia through the crowd milling around the grand entrance plaza. Tall spires of glass and reflection pools were decoratively arranged to highlight Whitehall’s grand tower in the city center.
“But my father said we are given an orientation prior to surgery.” Emilia struggled to keep up with Angelica’s long strides as real panic set in.
“That is how we normally proceed, but with your extremely late arrival and the Polity arriving, the schedule is, I guess you can say, condensed.”
Emilia’s mouth went dry. Her mind raced as fast as her feet. She pressed her chest, activating the medallion under her gown.
“So, I will be undergoing my surgery now?” She said loudly enough for the medallion to catch her voice. She couldn’t risk checking to see if the violet eye of the eel lit to confirm the message was transmitted.
“Have I not made myself clear? Straight to surgery and recovery. After that you will be sent for assessment and training. Do you understand?” Angelica wheeled around and glowered over Emilia.
“Yes ma’am. Please forgive me. This is my first trip away from home, and with the Polity arriving,” Emilia paused. She let tears well up in her eyes and gave an exaggerated sniff, “I’m nervous to be on my own.”
“There, there. You have nothing to fear here. We take excellent care of our Brides and the Polity, we are assured by the Governor, will not be a threat to us.” She gave Emilia a motherly pat on her shoulder.
“Thank you. All of you Whitehallers are so kindhearted.” Emilia pulled a handkerchief from her bag to blot her eyes.
“Come, no time to lose.” Angelica gave a small smile before returning to her original snobbish expression.
Emilia took a deep breath and followed Angelica into the tallest tower. Nerves tugged at the edges of her stomach, but she was prepared. We’re coming for you, Antonio, she thought as she boarded the lift behind Angelica.
Emilia sleepily stretched and blinked her eyes open slowly. A soft haze clouded her vision leaving her surroundings a blurry mix of shapes and shadows. Emilia’s hands felt the velvety blanket wrapped around her as she pushed herself up from where she had been laying. She winced as pressure began to pulse behind her eyes. Instinctually she tried to rub them but found a pair of protective goggles covering them.
“My Shadow?” Emilia murmured groggily, half expecting to find Valentine by her bedside.
“Take it slow. Seeing some shadows is normal at this point. I’m happy to report that your surgery was successful,” said a calm voice.
Emilia yelped. She jolted upright, disconcerted by the unexpected voice. Her hand flew to where the medallion hung from her neck.
“Who’s there? Am I in recovery?” Emilia tossed her head around to look around the room but still couldn’t see anything clearly.
“Didn’t mean to startle you, Emilia. Yes, you are in recovery. Your eyes will continue to adjust for another hour or so. Till then, just rest.” A small hand patted Emilia’s shoulder.
Emilia’s mind raced instead. Her pulse thumped in her temples like a hammer breaking apart the plans she so carefully made to help Valentine and Bianca free Antonio. Emilia gulped in air in short ragged breaths. Why had she agreed to do this? It was too important and she was already ruining everything. She tried to stand but wobbled back against the bed.
“Not so fast there. Just take it easy,” said the voice.
“This is too much! I can’t do this.” Emilia wrapped her arms tightly around herself.
“Hey, hey. It’s okay! Wow, you must be really sensitive to that sedative the chemist gave you for surgery.” A pair of petite arms enclosed Emilia’s shoulders giving a comforting squeeze.
Emilia’s breathing slowed as the warmth of the person holding her radiated like a familiar Westie sunrise. A beautiful aroma filled her nostrils, sending her back to the small garden her mother worked so hard to tend in the harsh sand near their home.
“Is that Mary’s Iris I smell?” Emilia sniffed.
“It’s my perfume. I hope it’s not too strong for you.” The person let go and stepped away.
“Not at all! It reminds me of home. That is a comfort now that I am so far away from it.” Emilia smiled wistfully. “I didn’t know they sold such fragrances here in Whitehall.”
“They don’t. It was a gift from my father before I left,” the voice responded quietly.
“So, you are from Westminster? Are you a Bride?” Emilia kept trying to discern which shadow was the one speaking.
“Yes, I have been assigned as your trainer while you are here in Whitehall. I like to be here when the Brides first wake from their surgery so they aren’t alone.”
“That is very thoughtful of you. You have given me a great gift of comfort. I’m sorry, I still don’t know your name,” said Emilia, remembering her mantra, innocence and flattery.
“My name is Cleopatra, but you can call me Cleo.”
“Cleo is a beautiful name. I know you already know, but I am Emilia. It is a pleasure to meet you.” Emilia stretched out her hand in the direction she thought Cleo was standing.
“Pleased to meet you too.” Cleo shook Emilia’s hand. “I’ll guide you to your temporary quarters now and I’ll come fetch you in a few hours. It’s best just to try and sleep. You don’t want to strain your eyes.”
Cleo gently helped Emilia stand. Emilia leaned in, taking another deep breath. As they had spoken, Emilia found herself regaining her composure. If she had convinced Valentine to believe in her, she needed to find a way to convince herself she was ready to do this mission. Emilia reminded herself that plans change at a moment’s notice, just like with Valentine on that Westminster dock not long ago. She took a hold of Cleo’s hand and let her lead the way.
Emilia paced the small quarters Cleo brought her to. Emilia felt her nerves roll around in the pit of her stomach, anxious to get the mission back on track. She was also growing tired of being stuck in rooms by herself. At home in Westminster, waiting for Valentine when she first arrived in Newlondon and now here, in Whitehall, waiting for Cleo.
Not long after Cleo left her to rest, Emilia felt her vision clear. She took off the protective goggles and gently gave her eyes a rub. She smiled when she felt no pain. She didn’t notice a huge change in her vision except the glow she usually saw around lights, like the ones in the ceiling above her, was brighter and was more violet colored than before.
“This will come in handy.” She smirked to herself.
Emilia reached for the chain around her neck and pulled out the medallion. The violet eye blinked slowly, notifying of a waiting message. She pressed the eye and listened. The automated voice relayed Valentine’s message.
“Got ping. Hope you’re OK. Send ping when you can.”
Even though it wasn’t Valentine’s actual voice, Emilia hugged the medallion knowing Valentine was out there waiting for her. She pressed the medallion and spoke:
“I’m OK. Mission is on, my Shadow.”
The violet crystal glowed steadily as the message was transmitted then went dark. Emilia slipped the medallion back under her dress to keep it hidden. She spent the next bit of time studying her room. Valentine taught her to observe all she could. “You never know what you can use to your advantage,” she had said to Emilia. She noted that the small bed had a small space between the mattress and the platform, perfect for stashing something small if the need arose. There were four lights overhead, but she saw no controls for them. She tried saying a voice command to turn them off, but they didn’t respond. There were no windows and only one door. The door handle was locked. She hoped that was just so she wouldn’t wander out while her eyes were recovering and not as a form of confinement while she was in training.
Finally, there was a knock at the door.
“Come in.” Emilia sat on the bed to appear she was resting all the while.
Emilia heard a click and Cleo appeared in the doorway.
“Glad to see you are resting, Emilia. Are you ready for your placement testing?” Cleo folded her hands in front of her. Emilia could finally see Cleo’s short, bouncy hair which framed her chin. Her eyes were violet like Emilia’s, but Cleo had freckles that dotted the apples of her cheeks. A fitted vest complimented her petite frame, and she wore loose fitting cloth pants with utility pockets and a few tools hung from a leather belt slung around her hips.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. I don’t think I’ll make a very good Artemis or Vestra to be honest.” Emilia stood while she nervously played with the seams of her dress.
“Something tells me you’ll do just fine, wherever you end up.” Cleo tilted her head back, appraising Emilia.
“I don’t remember you saying which kind you are.” Emilia followed Cleo out of the room and down the hallway.
“You are right. I didn’t. It’s a bit complicated when it comes to my designation. I am a quick study and I breezed through the mechanical specs they train the Vestras on. But I have a background in creatures because of my father which made me just as suited as an Artemis.” Cleo’s hands balled into fists.
Another lesson Emilia learned from Valentine, during their trek through the savagelands, was the virtue of waiting to ask questions, so she let the echo of their footsteps fill the silence. Cleo stretched out her fingers and took a breath.
“Because my aptitude was split, I was trained in both skill sets. The Hallers that run the Bride program chose to keep me rather than allowing me to be assigned. I can teach you all you need to know to be the most skilled beast-tracking Artemis or mechanically savvy Vestra.” Cleo pressed a button to summon the lift.
“Something tells me that wasn’t what you had hoped for.” Emilia studied Cleo’s tight jaw as they waited.
“My father is a technician in Wildcat Fields. He would let me sneak out with him on night trips into the Fields and we’d watch for creatures together. With my violet eyes, it was only a matter of time before I was sent here. I thought for sure I’d be assigned as an Artemis, and I’d get to be out in the wilds with the creatures.” Cleo’s eyes narrowed.
“You must be so brave to wish for that! Something attacked my Sha-, my guide and I during my trip here.” Emilia shuddered at the memory of the growling beast and Valentine’s blade slicing through the air.
“My father taught me from a young age to admire their beauty despite their vicious nature. He’d always say that if people would only give them a chance, we could live harmoniously, together.” Cleo stepped into the lift as the doors opened.
“Well, I do remember a school friend that kept a kittercat as a pet.” Emilia followed Cleo into the lift once the doors opened.
“Those furballs are harmless, but most of the creatures of the Globe aren’t nearly as scary as they seem. They are just looking for food and shelter, just as we do. We just get in each other’s way sometimes,” Cleo said.
“I never thought about it like that before.” Emilia’s eyebrows knitted together.
If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.
Check back on Friday, when we reveal the conclusion to “The View from the Wall.”
P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:
Act 1: Night of the Rocket
- “Pillars of Smoke” by Frasier Armitage
- “Shadow of the Dunes” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Towers of Whitehall” by Jim Hamilton
- “The Beast Below” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “The Buried War” by Matthew Cross
- “Kite Night” by Matthew Cross
Act 2: Nights of Revelation
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Voice of Beasts–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Sands of Change-Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The Sands of Change-Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “A Matter of Principle” by Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Eyes Up the River–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson and Frasier Armitage
- “Shambles” by Matthew Cross
- “Interrogation” by Matthew Cross
- “The Burning Flame–Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “The Burning Flame–Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “Swift as Shadow–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Song of Thieves” by Frasier Armitage
- You just read: “The View from the Wall–Part 1” by Shanel Wilson
- “The View from the Wall–Part 2” by Shanel Wilson
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 1” by Frasier Armitage
- “Outcast of Belmont- Part 2” by Frasier Armitage
- “Bounty” by Matthew Cross
- “Feral Fields” by Jeremy Wilson and Shanel Wilson