Side A – Nia
When fate comes knocking, it is always a good idea to spend a moment considering whether you really wanted to answer the door or not. Unfortunately for Nia, refusing to answer the door meant that her sister would continue knocking, probably until she knocked the door off its hinges. Kayelle could be insistent like that, as Nia knew from longer and aggravating past experience.
“What does she want?” Yasgrid asked, looking around as though she had to hurriedly straighten up the room for the unexpected company.
“I have no idea,” Nia said. “She’s supposed to be preparing to leave on her journey with Endings. Visiting family’s not really a part of that is most cases. Unless we’re one of the problems she needs to fix.”
“Should I let her in?” Yasgrid asked, starting to move to the door but pausing at Nia’s last words.
“Yeah, I can stay focused here for a little while longer,” Nia said. “Let’s hear what she has to say.”
Kayelle was carrying Endings when she stepped inside Nia’s small house, not by the hilt, as though she intended to use it, but cradled in her arms. Her eyes held the same cold, distant quality she’d taken on after the ceremony, which was something Nia wasn’t used to seeing. It gave her sister a seriousness that seemed out of place in a sibling.
“Is everything ok?” Yasgrid asked.
“Obviously not,” Kayelle said. “If it was Endings would have settled back to rest for this year.”
“I meant is everything ok with you?” Yasgrid asked.
“No,” Kayelle said. “But I guess that’s obvious now too.”
“What do you mean?” Yasgrid asked, voicing the same confusion that Nia herself felt.
Kayelle’s life was arguably better than Nia’s, and Nia knew her life was remarkably blessed despite the discontent she felt with it. Where Nia was always slamming into the rules of propriety and good breeding that hemmed their lives in, forever unable to just calmly accept the lies they needed to tell, and eternally making a mess of social interactions, Kayelle was able to navigate the intricacies of highborn life with enough grace that no one ever questioned that she was their mother’s daughter.
“No one becomes Endings bearer unless the trouble they bring to it can match the troubles they’re going to be put against,” Kayelle said.
“What troubles could you possibly have?” Nia asked. “You’re Mom’s favorite! Everyone knows you’re going to follow right in her footsteps and they love you for it!”
Kayelle couldn’t hear her of course, and Nia knew that, but she couldn’t hold the words in. Since before they could even travel on the ropes, Nia had struggled to measure up to her older sister. No one expected her to be her mother after all. Not at such a young age.
Naosha M’Kallin set an impossible standard for almost anyone to live up to. Graceful, and composed, able to whether any storm of adversity without complaint or visible discomfort. If a perfect elven doll had been fashioned from the finest porcelain, it would still have born more blemishes than Naosha M’Kallin and to all appearances Kayelle was growing into exactly the sort of woman who would be able to inherit that mantle of respectability and prestige once she reached the proper age.
“What trouble did you bring to Endings?” Yasgrid asked, with far more gentleness than Nia could have mustered.
“I’m leaving the family,” Kayelle said.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid wasn’t sure how to respond, and glancing towards Nia she saw that Kayelle’s real sister wasn’t either.
“Once my tasks with Endings are done, I’m going to leave,” Kayelle said. “The family and the Darkwood. My life isn’t here. It’s not a part of this.”
“I don’t understand,” Yasgrid said, channeling the confusion she felt radiating off Nia like the heat from a bonfire.
“Do you remember when I found you at the border of the woods?” Kayelle asked. She looked at Yasgrid, in Nia’s body, but mistook Yasgrid’s nod for confirmation. Yasgrid remembered Nia mentioning something like that but didn’t think Nia had explained any of the particulars of the incident.
“I was so close to not coming back then,” Kayelle said. “I’ve been thinking about leaving for years now. I made plans that I knew wouldn’t go anywhere, but it was still fun to dream. That day showed me the truth though. I wasn’t just daydreaming. I was serious about it. I just lacked the resolve to follow through.”
“Why would you leave?” Nia asked confusion turning to a knife’s edge in her heart.
Yasgrid repeated Nia’s words in a quiet voice.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Kayelle asked. “There’s a whole world out there, how can we stay trapped in here, stuck in the treetops like there’s nowhere else better to be.”
“I don’t know,” Yasgrid said and turned to Nia with a desperate question in her eyes.
“Leaving the Darkwood marks an elf,” Nia said. “It’s allowed, in theory, but only the families who make trade with the outside world their business really do it. There are special rituals they observe that let them stay connected to the Darkwood even when they’re far away, and in general they only travel for a limited time before returning to renew their connection to our home.”
“It doesn’t sound like that’s what Kayelle is talking about does it?” Yasgrid asked.
“I don’t think it is,” Nia said. “She’s talking like a Rootless would – like someone who’s pulling up all their ties to the Darkwood.”
“That’s not why I came to you though,” Kayelle said. “I mean, I was going to tell you before I left, I’m not leaving because of you, but that’s not why I had to come tonight.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be preparing for your journey with Endings?” Yasgrid asked.
“I am,” Kayelle said. “This is a part of it. Endings wants to speak with you.”
“What?” Nia blurted out. “Endings only talks to the bearer? Doesn’t it?”
“How can I talk with it?” Yasgrid asked Kayelle, omitting that she already had once before during the meditation ceremony.
Kayelle passed the blade over to Yasgrid as though she was passing an infant over to a new caretaker.
“Hello bearer,” Endings said when Yasgrid took hold of the blade and hilt.