Side A – Yasgrid
There was murmuring behind Yasgrid as she left the Station of Joyful Resolutions, but it was soft enough that the gentle harping which filled the ceremony chamber was sufficient to wash the words away before they reached her ears. That was probably for the best she decided. If she couldn’t hear what they were saying, she couldn’t react poorly to it and give away how out of place she really was.
“What’s the next station?” she asked Nia who was walking beside her, or at least appeared to be thanks to their unusual connection.
“The next one is the Station of Indebted Resolutions,” Nia said. “It’s where we acknowledge the difficulties we have overcome which leave us with a burden of honor, or other debt, to those who were truly responsible for resolving the problem.”
“What did you have for this one?” Yasgrid asked, glancing up at Endings, which still hung weightlessly over the center of the dias. The sword hadn’t tried to speak to her since the meditation ended. In fact, as she glanced around the distant walls of the room, it appeared that Endings wasn’t scattering the daylight which streamed in through the openings in the roof. The sword itself glimmered with multi-chromatic flares of light but the swatches of rainbow Yasgrid had seen cast on the walls and across the assembled crowd were gone, as though they’d all been drawn back to dance within Ending’s crystal blade.
“I don’t think my offerings are important,” Nia said. “Joyful Resolutions wasn’t happy with them at all, and that’s the nicest of the stations.”
“Could the other stations do worse than make the fire in the brazier dance though?” Yasgrid asked.
“Normally I would say no, but after the day we’ve been having? I’m not willing to rule anything out.”
Kayelle stepped up to the station, paused for a moment, just long enough for a single, silent offering and then moved on. Nia’s mother advanced next and Yasgrid felt a jolt of panic at it being her turn again so soon.
“I don’t know what to say for this one.” Yasgrid knew she should have been able to think of a number of people she owed thanks to for helping her resolve the problems that she’d faced throughout the year, but under the pressure of the moment, her mind went blank.
“It doesn’t have to be big, or important, or sensible,” Nia said. “You can take a little more time too. It’s not uncommon for people to pause longer on this one. No one wants to forget to offer thanks or acknowledgement for the people who’ve helped them.”
“Your sister didn’t stay long though,” Yasgrid said, watching Kayelle join the line at the third station.
Nia’s mother didn’t take long either at the second station, and so Yasgrid found herself stepping forward to greet the smouldering flames without any idea what she was going to offer them.
Side B – Nia
Nia wanted to suggest an answer for Yasgrid but she knew that would be worse than unhelpful. The distraction might keep Yasgrid’s mind from latching onto an idea that would work, and it would definitely anger whatever force was listening at the brazier. At least if the first brazier’s behavior provided any kind of map for how things were supposed to work for her and Yasgrid.
“I am grateful to Falfhid,” Yasgrid said after an agonizing moment of silence. “Last year I got sick before the Calling, but the truth was that I wasn’t anywhere near as ready as I should have been. Falfhid worked with me and got me through the technical challenges of the strong beats that I was struggling with. Without his patience, I might have given up and never known what it was like to play like a real Shatter drummer.”
Nia watched the flames, sure they would accept something as heartfelt as Yasgrid’s words had been. Instead they roared higher than the ones at the first station had.
“That didn’t work!” Yasgrid said and backed away a step.
“I don’t know why! That was perfect!” Nia said, moving to stand in front of Yasgrid. It was an unthinking action. Nia couldn’t shield Yasgrid from the flames’ heat since she wasn’t really present. Despite that, the flames responded to her presence. They didn’t return to their previous state, but they did stopped expanding. For a moment.
Nia felt like she was standing on Ending’s edge and that her chance to acting was a breath away from being sliced in two.
“I owe Kayelle for covering for me when I left the Darkwood,” Nia said, dredging up the biggest thing she could think of. “She was really great about it, and it helped me when I really needed to be away for a while.”
The flames retreated at that, dying back to the calm smoulder they had burned at before Yasgrid stepped up.
“I have a lot of questions,” Yasgrid said, as Nia had anticipated she might. “But does what just happened mean we both need to offering something at each station?”
Nia considered the idea. She didn’t have any precedents to draw on but it felt right on a primal level within her. Both she and Yasgrid were standing before the braziers, so both of them had to speak. The fire was simple, and so was what it asked for.
“We should be ready to try together on the next one,” Nia said. “Although that raises an interesting and disturbing question of its own.”
“What’s that?” Yasgrid asked, eyeing the line in front of the third station which was dwindling even as they approached it.
From behind them, Nia heard one of the people in line ask another “did the sword shine on her?” They’d noticed the flare of the brazier but were reading its meaning all wrong. If Yasgrid had been chosen as Ending’s bearer, the braziers wouldn’t have announced it. That the fires were reacting at all was unusual enough to draw speculation though, and that wasn’t likely to be good in the long run. Nia put that out of her mind and turned her attention back to the more immediate problem at hand.
“If we’ve both drawn the attention of my land, and we’re both expected to speak to it, then that means that the gods who dwell within it are aware of us, and I don’t know what they intended to do about whatever it is we’ve become.”
“Maybe they could help us sort it out?” Yasgrid asked.
“In the stories my people tell, our gods gave us life and they gave us our home,” Nia said. “Beyond that they don’t tend to be what you would call helpful.”
“What could they do that wouldn’t be helpful?” Yasgrid asked.
“I’m thinking if they wanted to, they might be able to break this link we have,” Nia said. “I’m just not sure they’d put us back in the right bodies before they did so.”