Side A – Nia
Nia might as well have been five years old again for how easily the wave of terror swallowed her.
“How is my mother coming to Blue Falls supposed to help anything?” she asked, the campfire between her and Yasgrid snapping with angry hisses.
The bond the two shared was an odd and unexplored thing. The’d poked around its edges a few times, and discovered other aspects of it through circumstance, need, or accident, but after their one real experiment with the borders of their ability to communicate left them tossed into a realm their minds couldn’t full comprehend they’d avoided pressing into the unknown as much as possible.
That was why Nia was able to ask a question which wasn’t the one she wanted the answer to, despite Yasgrid sharing memories and emotions with her on some level.
“It’s because of the army of Troubles,” Yasgrid said. “Apparently that’s not a common thing?”
“I’ve never heard of it happening before,” Nia said, stirring wood in the firepit to settle the hissing down.
“Marianne did some research,” Yasgrid said. “There are old accounts of Troubles working together, though its rare.”
“What about Endings?” Nia asked. “Hasn’t the sword seen all of this up close and in person?”
“Endings isn’t a ‘detail’ person,” Yasgrid said. “Your mom is coming to Blue Falls to bring ‘Scholars and Fate Dancers’ from all of the settlements her envoys could reach.”
Nia could picture that easily enough. Naosha M’Kellan wasn’t physically strong – at least as far as Nia was aware, though the thought crossed her mind that she’d never actually seen her mother tested in that manner – instead Naosha’s power lay in the connections she maintained and the sheer number of people who would drop whatever they were doing should she request aide. Her showing up to Blue Falls with a small army at her back was only unlikely because she wouldn’t bother limiting it to a “small” army.
“I can see the scholars I guess,” Nia said. “They might be able to help prepare you if any of the Troubles have been around long enough to leave legends or stories behind. The Fate Dancers though? I really hope they’re not a problem for you.”
“Why would they be?” Yasgrid asked.
“They‘re the ones who normally have to deal with Trouble related incidents,” Nia said. “They can’t destroy Troubles like Ending can, but they can usually fight them if one’s encountered and the Bearer isn’t around. Which is most of the time people run into one, obviously.”
“Kayelle said the same but she didn’t seem any happier about their arrival than you are,” Yasgrid said.
“Bearers and Fate Dancers don’t tend to get along,” Nia said. “The Fate Dancers hate that Endings isn’t under their control, and Bearers tend to hate the fact that Fate Dancers will try to kill them from time to time.”
“The Fate Dancers are trying to get Endings?” Yasgrid asked.
“Or just take it out of service for the rest of the year,” Nia said. “Their claim is that while Endings destroys the outer manifestation of the Trouble, its inner essence remains behind and can regrow even stronger.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid chuckled, some part of her feeling a swell of contentment as her pessimistic suspicions were confirmed.
“Good, good, more enemies is just what we needed,” she said, standing up and looking towards the dream sky which was filled with stars beyond measure.
“This isn’t going to sound like me,” Nia said, “but it’s probably good that my mother will be there with them. She can keep their worst impulses under control. Maybe even more than that.”
“So they won’t be trying to murder Kayelle and I then?” Yasgrid asked with a smirk as she turned back to face Nia.
“No, they all value their lives more than that,” Nia said. “I suspect if any of them so much as look at you funny, my mother will make sure that their bodies are never discovered. And I’m not exaggerating or kidding there. If it was to keep Kayelle safe, my mother would burn the Darkwood and everyone in it to ash without an instant’s hesitation or regret.”
“You don’t think she’d do the same for you?” Yasgrid asked.
“I’m hoping not,” Nia said and paused, chewing on a thought. “It’s hysterical really. I used to try so hard to get her attention, and now I’d be willing to pray to my absent elf gods and your imprisoned volcano gods for her to ignore me entirely.”
“You mean ignore me,” Yasgrid said.
“Yeah. And I know it’s childish. It’s just…I feel like she could somehow unravel everything we’ve done. Like she could just order us back into our own lives and then be so disappointed with me for pretending I could be something other that what she wants me to be.”
“I wonder if I should tell her then?” Yasgrid asked. “Like I did with Marianne.”
“What? No! Why would you?” Nia was on her feet before you knew it.
“To show you that you’re not a disappointment and that you’re not pretending to be something your not,” Yasgrid said, opening her arms to invite Nia into them.
“You don’t know her,” Nia said, burying herself in Yasgrid’s embrace.
Touching, even in a dream, felt both warm and comforting. Like breathing clearly at last or rising from a restful slumber.
“I don’t know her, not directly, but I do know you,” Yasgrid said. “And you are not the fraud your fear is whispering that you are. I’ve been there with you during your lessons. I’ve walked beside you as you spoke with people I’ve known all my life. You’re more of a Shatter drummer than I ever was, more than I ever could be. And you’re building your own relationships to support that life. This isn’t something your mother can take from you, and it’s not something you need to feel ashamed of.”
“Thank you,” Nia said, the lump in her throat audible as she blinked back tears.
“It’s what we’re here for, right?” Yasgrid asked. “Well that and figuring out how we’re going to survive for at least another month.”
“I’ve at least got it easy there,” Nia said. “You’ve got a Trouble Army incoming. All I need to worry about is a tour through the other Stoneling cities with the Shatter Band.”
“Wait…what?” Yasgrid asked, stepping back and allowing her concern to carve her face into a mask. “You’re touring with the Shatter Band. It’s not for a Battle of the Bands, is it?”
“Uh, yeah, is that a bad thing?” Nia asked, despite being able to see clearly in Yasgrid’s expression how much worse she thought it was than the army of Troubles would be.