Side A – Nia
Nia woke well before she was ready to be conscious again. It was a terrible idea she decided, as the throbbing that had replaced every other sensation her body was capable of producing reminded her just how far past her limits her performance had gone. Her attempt to return to the blissful embrace of slumber was halted however by someone forcing her left eye open and holding a candle uncomfortably close to it.
Nia tried to look past the candle’s glare but before she could her right eye was being opened and the candle flame held close to it as well.
“Looks like she’s ok,” the doctor said. “Probably just needs some sleep now.”
Intellectually, Nia wanted to murder the man, but after the battle she’d waged she couldn’t summon up even one more spark of rage to make it happen.
“How far away is her house?” the doctor asked.
“Too far to carry her,” Magrada said, her voice gruff and strained.
“We can let her rest here then,” the doctor said. “The rest of the wounded are being taking to the hospital so they won’t need this bed.”
“I’ll let her mother know,” Magrada said.
“The Shatter Band will want to speak with her too,” the doctor said. Nia could hear him writing something on a sheet on paper but opening her eyes to confirm that seemed like an agonizing amount of work in her present state.
“They’re going to talk to me next. I’ll tell them where they can find her.” Magrada sounded as weary as Nia felt, but apparently had some reserves that Nia was lacking.
“I’ll leave it to you,” the doctor said. “That was a terrifying spectacle out there. I know it’s too early for congratulations, but I would like to thank you. It seemed like the applicants holding on as well as they did really helped turn the tide when things started to go wrong.”
“Things shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place though,” Magrada said.
The doctor grunted in agreement and left the room.
Nia thought she could drift back to sleep then but her plan was interrupted by the feeling of her boots being wrestled off. Nia wasn’t sure where things were going until she felt a light, soft blanket settle over her.
“Thanks,” was all that Magrada said, a soft catch in her voice inside that one word.
She left the room and neither Nia’s curiosity nor her manners were enough to lift her from the bed to follow and find out what Magrada meant. Instead she tumbled back into the dark sea of sleep and let its currents pull her under.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid desperately wished Nia would wake up. There was magic in Frost Harbor but, generally, it didn’t speak to you. Caught in the chromatic glow from the crystal sword that hung suspended in the center of the chamber, Yasgrid felt that, maybe, having a someone familiar with the customs and lore of the ceremony she was taking part in just might be handy.
“Speak, Daughter of Stone,” the sword said. “There are questions churning within you. Ask them and I will cut away your confusion.”
Yasgrid froze, her breath sticking in her throat. If she spoke, everyone in the chamber would hear her, and if she asked the questions she was most interested in learning the answers to they would all know she wasn’t who she seemed to be.
“Speak your words within,” the sword said, “I can hear the whisperings of your heart, and will answer them so that you may leave your problems behind.”
“Who are you?” Yasgrid asked without meaning to, her voice silent except in the confines of her mind.
“I am the sun, I am the blade that splits it, I am the truth in your eyes, and the truth they mirror in the world beyond,” the sword said. “You may call me Endings if you wish.”
“Do you know me?” Yasgrid asked. Endings’ voice held the same divine reverberation which she’d heard in the laughter of her gods as they taunted Nia, but Endings’ tone was mild where theirs had been cruel.
“I know all within this chamber, Daughter of Stone,” Endings said.
“Why do you call me that?” Yasgrid asked. There was one obvious reason but Yasgrid sensed Endings wasn’t referring to her original heritage.
“Your mother is one of the cornerstones this community rests upon,” Endings said. “Your time of proving has not come yet, and so your distinction comes from the legacy you bear, rather than the deeds you have done.”
“What deeds am I supposed to do?” Yasgrid asked, feeling a pang for Nia. Yasgrid knew what it was like to grow up in the shadow of someone important and accomplished. The burden of an unchosen destiny was a heavy load to carry.
“I see only what is,” Endings said. “I can not tell you what your future should be. Whatever path you choose however will mark you and set you apart.”
“Can you tell me more about this ceremony then?” Yasgrid asked. It was a dangerous ploy because it revealed how little she knew about the details of Nia’s life. Yasgrid felt like she was going to trip up horrendously though if she kept marching on without knowing more about what was expected of her.
“This is my ceremony,” Endings said. “I stand at the turn of the years, dividing one from the next, and carving away the troubles which seek to follow my people across the boundaries of time.”
“You said sometimes the slaying is more literal than symbolic?” Yasgrid asked.
“Each year, I can call one person to carry me out into the world,” Endings said. “When the need arises, my chosen bearer hunts with me for the manifestations of blight and ruin and misfortune which have grown too strong to dissipate on their own.”
“What are those like?” Yasgrid asked.
“They turn lives out of joint, scramble the nature of things, and lurk under false facades where no one can see them,” Endings said.
Yasgrid paled, feeling each phrase of the description pin her in place like an indictment struck through her soul.
“And what do you do with them?” Yasgrid asked.
“I am a blade for a reason,” Endings said. “When things need to be slain, my bearer and I are there to act before the problem they represent grows worse.”