AFTER THE DAY: Timothy's History, The dispute: The travellers arrive.
The travellers changed everything, the dispute if anything got worse, and they gave us all sorts of new excuses to argue.
But I get ahead of myself. I should tell first, how the travellers came to our valley. One day, whilst John, Michael and Sally were busy looking west, watching Bossman and the smokers, three figures had walked up the valley from the south east. Mark and Chang, who were helping Terry build the wall had seen them first, following the rout of the old overgrown road, through what had always been known as 'the big village'.
Mark had run up to the community with the news. And whilst everyone had walked, or in the case of the children run full pelt down to the nearly complete wall, Mark had continued up to Luke's View to find John. And it was everyone, myself included. These were the first people from outside the Valley any of us had ever seen, without the aid of binoculars and a high vantage point.
The new visitors acted in a friendly way, waving to us lined along the wall, as they walked up the hill towards us, all three had rucksacks. The children, waved back, and began shouting Hello to them. It was an odd experience, excitement gripped everyone, and it was infectious. But there was anxiety and somehow a sense of grief, as if our isolation was something precious that had now been lost.
I noticed Lilly was next to me, she rarely smiles, except with her eyes, but she was cought up with the 'event' just like everyone else and was grinning ear to ear. But she was still observing, and she looked at me and said, "Have you noticed one of them is 'different'?"
I looked again and indeed one of the three figures had white hair. My first thought was albino, but I knew as soon as I thought it, that this was something else. The trio were quite close now, and I could see the man was old. Not old like Jayne or David had been, which was a kind of worn out and eaten away agedness, but old like people shown in the books.
It suddenly occurred to me that if he was really old? I turned to Lilly saying, "Do you think he was there before the day?"
"I would be surprised if he hadn't been," said Lilly, adding in a somewhat conspiratorial tone, "How did he get so old, when David, Mary and the others are all dead?"
The other two figures were young and what might be termed 'burly', I asked Lilly, "Do you think they are his bodyguards?"
"Absolutely!" She replied, "and they are all discretely armed."
I realised at this point that the only obvious weapons the three men carried, were large hunting knives on their belts. And was about to say that this wasn't much in the way of arms, when Lilly added, "Both guards, have shoulder holsters, I would say they are genuinely for protection, certainly not intimidation, otherwise they would have been more obviously displayed. But they look as if they imagine themselves invulnerable, as though they think no one else is as well armed as they."
I looked at Lilly, she had a the slightly smug impression she always wore when she thought she had one up on someone, usually when playing poker. "Are you armed now?" I asked.
"Of course I am, you twit. Three strangers walking brazenly into our valley. I was not going to assume they were harmless and friendly." She glanced up the hillside to the north," I thought Steven should have a scout around to see if this was all their party too."
Steven was notorious for 'hiding', as a child he had disappeared for 2 days, causing panic and consternation to his parents and everyone else, before turning up and claiming he had never left the community, sitting in a large tree next to the barn, eating homemade honey flapjacks the whole time.
The three visitors had by now reached the gate, and Sarah welcomed them.
One of the 'bodyguards' said 'Hello', and a conversation ensued, though it was a little difficult to hear from where I and Lilly we're standing. Sarah told me afterwards that it was a bit nondescript, hello this is the Valley. Where have you come from? Oh the North in the mountains. Etc. Sarah thought they were being a bit 'noncommittal', but then who wouldn't be.
And then Mark and John arrived striding down the hill. Lilly, with her back to the visitors patted her chest over her heart, pretended to draw a gun, motioned with her palms downwards away from herself as if to say let them keep them, and then patted her own upper thigh. John seemed to get the message, nodding almost imperceptibly. They often communicated like this and I doubted anyone but myself, even in the community, had noticed the exchange.
John eyed the 'bodyguards' warily, and completely ignored the one who had until now been speaking to Sarah, and spoke directly to the old man, loud enough so everyone could hear, saying, "It's a long time since anyone here had grey hair."
This was typical John, straight to the point, say what everybody else was thinking but avoiding saying. 'Cutting to the chase,' as Luke used to say.
The 'old one' as the children were already calling him, in their excited conversations, frankly looked impressed, and said, "A few do still remain from before the war, and I am indeed one." We had all moved a little closer to hear, so heard despite the quietly spoken manner he had.
"Welcome to our Valley," said John, "Come up to the Community, we will find you beds for the night, a good meal, and even some ale if your interested."
The three men looked at each other and there was nodded agreement. And up the hill we all went, the 'old one' chatting with John, and everyone else trundling on behind, the children trying to engage the 'bodyguards', in conversation, whilst Lilly followed at what was clearly a discrete, but effective distance to directly challenge the men should the need arise.